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Obituary: William (Knox) Mellon, Jr.

Legend in the field of historic preservation, great-grandfather, Democratic organizer

William (Knox) Mellon, Jr., a legend in the field of historic preservation, died January 10 at the age of 95. 

He was born to William (Knox) Mellon, Sr. and Zelma Cochran Mellon in Houston, Texas on October 20, 1925. Knox was five years old when the family moved to San Marino, California, where his father built the first house on Oxford Street, across from the Huntington Library. 

He attended the Stonewood and Huntington schools, and the Midland School in Los Olivos for high school, where he played soccer. 

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943, serving in the 32nd Division in the Pacific, participating in the long road back, from New Guinea to Luzon and Japan. He was present at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines when General Douglas MacArthur returned the Philippine government to Philippine President Sergio Osmeña.

He graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor’s degree in history, earned his master’s in history from UCLA and his Ph.D. in history from Claremont Graduate University. 

In 1948, he married Josselyn Bale. They had four children: Lesley, Andrea, Laura and Fred. 

Mr. Mellon taught history at Immaculate Heart College. In 1975, Governor Jerry Brown appointed him as California’s first state historic preservation officer and director of the State Office of Historic Preservation. Thus began his long involvement and leadership in historic preservation, including founding his own historic preservation consulting firm, Mellon and Associates. Governor Gray Davis returned him to Sacramento for a second time when he was again appointed as California state historic preservation officer and director of the Office of Historic Preservation.

He served for many years as the executive director of the California Missions Foundation and of the Mission Inn Foundation in Riverside. A nationally renowned figure in historic preservation, Mr. Mellon received the prestigious Crowninshield Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California Preservation Foundation’s President’s Award for lifetime achievement, and both the Norman Neuerburg Award and a lifetime achievement award from the California Missions Foundation, as well as other awards and recognition.

He was also active in politics. He was the Democratic nominee for the 24th Congressional District in 1962, a member of the California Democratic Council, coordinator for volunteers for Gov. Jerry Brown’s first campaign for governor, and served on George Brown’s successful 1972 campaign to represent the state’s newly reapportioned 38th congressional district.

Mr. Mellon enjoyed playing tennis and golf. He loved both the visual and performing arts. He served on the board of directors of the Carmel Bach Festival, the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts and on the board of trustees of the California Historical Society. 

The Mellons moved to the Carmel Highlands in 2010.

“Knox was a gentleman and a scholar,” his family shared. “He had a quick wit, keen intelligence, a good sense of humor and was a marvelous storyteller. He loved animals, particularly his two dachshunds Thor and Baron, his boyhood mutt Mike, boyhood St. Bernard Josephine and his German Shepherds and was fond of the cats wife Carlotta brought into the Mellon household.”

He is survived by wife of 48 years, Carlotta Herman Mellon; daughter Andrea Mellon Schneider, and son Fred (Carrie) Mellon; brother David Mellon; grandchildren Heaven Burgo, Conner and Katie Mellon, and Julia Schneider; great grandchildren Jeff and Amber Burgo; brothers-in-law Gary (Beverly) Herman, Richard (Debi) Herman and Donald (Judi) Herman; sister-in-law Kathleen (John) Nally; and several nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews. 

Mr. Mellon was predeceased by first wife Josselyn Bale Mellon, and daughters Laura and Lesley.

A celebration of life will be held when it is safe to do so.

Donations in his memory may be made to the California Missions Foundation at https://californiamissionsfoundation.org/donate/; the Carmel Bach Festival at https://bachfestival.org/Donate/; the SPCA for Monterey County at https://www.spcamc.org (click on “Donate”); or to the nonprofit of your choice.

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