1994 Laureates

Robert H. Porterfield

When Robert Porterfield enrolled in Hampden-Sydney College, his parents, William and Daisy Huffard Porterfield, hoped he would become a minister. However, in 1928, when he was 23, Porterfield arrived inNew York City, determined to become an actor. After the stock market crash in 1929, acting work was scarce.

The necessity of eating gave Porterfield an idea that eventually fed hundreds of actors. He knew the farmers in his hometown of Austinville, Virginia, had plentiful crops. Why not "barter" an evening's entertainment in exchange for excess produce?

Barter Theatre became a reality in 1932. The young theatre went through many tough periods, but Porterfield persevered and succeeded. Barter Theatre is now the state theatre of Virginia, and Robert Porterfield is a legend.

Although he is best remembered for founding Barter Theatre, Porterfield did much more to improve the quality of life in Southwest Virginia. Always interested in the economic development of the region, Porterfield was a founder of the Virginia Highlands Festival, now in its 46th year. He was also a charter member or former director of several organizations promoting tourism in Virginia.

Porterfield was also extensively involved in civic projects throughout the region. Porterfield was a founder of the Washington County Public Library, chairman of the American Cancer Society Crusade for Virginia and Chairman of the Virginia Eastern Seal Drive. And these are far from all his accomplishments.

Porterfield received numerous honors during his lifetime. Although many of these awards reflected his contribution to American theatre, others pointed to his overall civic contributions.

Robert and Mary Dudley Porterfield were the parents of one son, Jay Bird Payne Porterfield.