Oak Alley's Executive Director Zeb Mayhew, Jr. received the 2010 Will Mangham Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award
Louisiana Travel & Tourism Summit
The Louisiana Travel & Tourism Summit was held on January 27, 2011 at the Hilton Capitol Center in Baton Rouge. Zeb Mayhew, Jr., Oak Alley's Executive Director, received the prestigious Will Mangham Tourism Lifetime Achievement "Louey" Award for his dedication to preserving and promoting Oak Alley Plantation and Louisiana's tourism. He has left an everlasting impression on the state's tourism industry and has dedicated 35 years of passion to Oak Alley Plantation and tourism.
When Zeb came to the plantation, he brought visions from his past into future plans for Oak Alley. As a boy growing up in New England, he spent many vacations at the plantation with his Aunt Josephine, and in New Orleans with his Grandmother Julia, and considered Louisiana his second home. After graduation from Tulane, he decided to put down permanent roots on the banks of the Mississippi River.
When the opportunity arose to take over as executive director of Oak Alley Foundation in 1976, he jumped at it. The challenge was enormous and operational funds minimal. A great deal of work was crucial to the preservation of the house, grounds and out-buildings. There was no doubt of the historic value attached to the beautiful treasure bequeathed to The Foundation, but there had not been funds for an endowment for operation and maintenance, and the whole undertaking had to start from square one!
Undaunted, Zeb dug in, working one day at a time. In addition to The Foundation’s 25 acres accommodating the antebellum manor and an office building, the remaining plantation acreage had been willed by his Aunt Josephine, to her great nieces and great nephews, Zeb being one of them. The responsibility of supervising this legacy also fell to Zeb, and his efforts at successfully managing one entity without compromising the integrity of the other are clearly manifest in the self-maintaining, well organized Oak Alley Plantation of today.
Even more of the dream was realized in 1998 when Zeb became the sole owner of all but The Foundation’s historic 25 acres, the antebellum manor and stately grounds. The door was finally opened upon a breathtaking future full of possibilities and endless opportunities for visitors to Louisiana's River Region to share her golden past while experiencing the enjoyment of her many-faceted present.
He has for many years been privileged to share in ongoing efforts to preserve and safeguard the presence of this extraordinary River Region classic. Time alone has allowed him to witness many aspects of Oak Alley's peace and beauty. Oak Alley and the River Road success today is mostly because of the passion, love, devotion, tenacity and vision that Zeb has had.
In 1984 during the Worlds Fair, he was instrumental in developing the Plantation Parade Association, which is made up of several plantations along the River Road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. This organization pools its money and resources to promote tourism in the area. Zeb has always gone out of his way to help promote others, as well as his own business. He has always said competition is good for everyone and if you provide a great product, visitors will come. Today, Plantation Parade has become so successful that other organization have modeled their organizations from it.
Zeb has overseen the development of Oak Alley Plantation into the most visited plantation in Louisiana and an internationally recognized icon for the antebellum south. This year recognition finally came from the National Scenic Byway that the Great River Road would be Designated as a National Scenic Byway and Oak Alley's image was selected as the "Iconic image of the Louisiana Great River Road."
Zeb grew Oak Alley's visitation from nothing in 1976 to over two hundred and forty-thousand visitors in 2004. Then the awful "Hurricane Katrina" hit New Orleans in 2005. Oak Alley was headed to another record year projecting to see over two hundred and fifty-thousand visitors. Many advised Zeb to close the plantation and re-open when tourism rebounded, but no, he decided he would plunge through it. Not being easy, he dug back in to square one again and this year Oak Alley should see over one hundred fifty-thousand visitors. Well short of what Oak Alley saw pre-Katrina, but on its way back to record numbers. And all of this is because of Zeb’s vision that Oak Alley Plantation has achieved the world recognition it has today.
Zeb says, "To all who have given of their time, diverse talents, and unwavering support in this awesome crusade, my deep appreciation ... dreams do indeed come true."
He is the perfect recipient of the Will Mangham Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award, as he had learned and worked closely with Mr. Mangham through the years and also been a very close friend of his, as many other through the tourism industry.
His motto has always been:
"Hold Fast To That Which Is Good"