Albert H. Small

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Albert H. Small, real estate developer and philanthropist, who helped shape the residential housing and commercial building landscape across the Washington metropolitan region, passed away on Oct. 3, at his home in Bethesda. He was less than two weeks shy of his 96th birthday.

Mr. Small was born in Washington, and raised by his parents, Albert and Lillian Small. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School and the University of Virginia, where he received a degree in chemical engineering. Mr. Small also served as a second lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War II.


After completing his bachelor’s degree and military service, Mr. Small co-founded Southern Engineering Corporation in 1950, which developed over 12,000 apartment units and 2,000 single-family homes. Mr. Small also developed more than 1 million square feet of commercial office space in downtown Washington and Greenbelt.

As a civic-minded philanthropist, who sought to share his appreciation of American history with future generations, Mr. Small endeavored to donate his extensive collection of presidential documents (including an original Declaration of Independence) to the University of Virginia, where he established the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. In a similar vein, Mr. Small donated his voluminous collection of rare maps, engravings and documents on Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia to the George Washington University, where he established The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection.

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Additionally, Mr. Small developed a deep-seated interest in memorializing one of the foundational events of the 20th century, the D-Day Campaign in 1944. He established the Albert H. Small Normandy Institute, a multi-purpose educational institution for teenagers and high school teachers to thoroughly study the significance of D-Day.

Mr. Small served on the boards of institutions including the Aspen Institute, U.S. State Department Rooms, University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, the Kennedy Center’s National Symphony Orchestra, National Museum of the American Indian, the National Archives Foundation, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Historical Society of Washington, the Tudor Place Foundation, the National Gallery of Art, the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress and the Life Guard Society of Mount Vernon.


Mr. Small participated in national organizations including the Young President’s Organization, the Chief Executives Organization, the National Association of Homebuilders and the Urban Land Institute. Mr. Small was awarded The National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2009. Mr. Small was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Public Service in 2016 by The George Washington University. On Oct. 1, 2021, he was named at the university’s 200th Anniversary Monumental Alumni Award Ceremony.

Mr. Small is survived by his beloved wife of 69 years, Shirley Schwalb Small; children, Susan (Gerald), Albert, Jr. (Tina) and James (Anayansie); grandchildren, Robert (Marissa), Stephen, Albert, Benjamin, Isabella and Gabriella; niece, Patricia Alper Cohn (David); nephew, Richard Alper (Kate); and brother-in-law, Jacob Schwalb (Sandra). Mr. Small was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Lillian, and his beloved sister, Carolyn Small Alper.

Donations may be made to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia; The Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum; and The Albert H. Small Normandy Institute.

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