Remembered for founding the National Trust for Historic Preservation and for directing both the National Gallery of Art and the United States Commission of Fine Arts, this twentieth-century cultural leader also headed the Roberts Commission, a World War II-era effort to rescue artwork from war-torn Europe.
After studying at the University of South Carolina, he earned a law degree from George Washington University. During World War I, he served in the U.S. Army Air Service.
While working for the United States Treasury Department, he made the acquaintance of prominent banker and philanthropist Andrew W. Mellon and eventually assisted Mellon in the establishment of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
He and his seven siblings grew up in South Carolina as the children of United States Representative David E. Finley. In the early 1930s, he married an artist and architect named Margaret Morton Eustis.
During World War II, he persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt to support the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, an project that came to be known as The Roberts Commission.