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In Memoriam

We remember in this space the passings of OAH members, friends, colleagues, and others within the profession. Please submit your announcement using this form.

Irving Brinton Holley Jr.

Irving Brinton Holley, Jr., Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University and Major General, US Air Force (ret.), died August 12, 2013, in Durham, NC. At the time of his death he was 94 years old.

Professor Holley was a native of Torrington, Connecticut, and graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1940. He was working toward a Ph.D. at Yale University and had received the Tew Prize as Outstanding Scholar in History when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, and he enlisted in the US Army. Trained as an aerial gunner, he was commissioned at Officer Candidate School. He returned to private life as a captain after five years of active duty but remained in the US Air Force reserves until he retired in 1981 with the rank of major general, after nearly 40 years of service to his country.

He completed his Ph.D. at Yale in 1947, receiving the Townshend Prize for Best Dissertation, and then accepted a position at Duke University. Although he officially retired in 1989, he continued teaching until the age of 92, making him both the oldest and longest serving professor in Duke’s history. In 2004, Professor Holley inspired the project “Books for Baghdad,” an effort by the university community to donate scholarly books and other materials to Iraqi university libraries which had been destroyed during Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Gulf Wars. He also served on the NC Health Planning Council, the Board of Trustees of Durham Academy, and as Senior Warden at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church. He was a member of the Organization of American Historians from 1965 until 1996. 

Professor Holley’s field was American intellectual and social history with a special emphasis on the history of technology. He was the author eight books, most notably Ideas and Weapons, a study of the relationships of technology, military doctrine, and weapons development. First issued in 1953, the book has been published in four editions and is still in print. It continues as an important text for several US military staff schools and war colleges. Other books Professor Holley wrote include General John M. Palmer, Citizen Soldier, and the Army of a Democracy, and Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces, a World War II official history for the US Army Center of Military History. More recently, at the age of 89, he published his last scholarly book, The Highway Revolution, 1895-1925: How the United States Got Out of the Mud.

Professor Holley taught and mentored several generations of PhD’s and in so doing made a major contribution to the field of military history. Widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading authorities on military doctrine, he continued to lecture on the subject long after his retirement from the university. He served as visiting professor at the US military academy at West Point, NY, and the National Defense University. He was a frequent lecturer at the Army and Air Force Staff Colleges, the Army, Navy, and Air War Colleges, and the Pentagon. He also lectured at the US Marine University, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Royal Swedish Military Staff College in Stockholm, Sweden.

Professor Holley was an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was a recipient of the Duke Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for History for his body of contributions to the field of military history. He was awarded the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, and the Air Force’s Exceptional Service and Distinguished Service Medals, and the Air Force Legion of Merit. In 2007 he was the first recipient of an award named in his honor by the Air Force for individuals who have made a “sustained, significant contribution to the documentation of Air Force history during a lifetime of service.”

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Janet Carlson Holley, and his daughters Janet Wegner of Garrett Park, MD, Jean Schmidt of Greenville, SC, and Susan Holley of Clover, SC, as well as eight grandchildren and two great-grandsons. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at The Forest at Duke, 2701 Pickett Road, Durham, NC 27705 at 2:00 p.m. in the auditorium.

Posted: March 19, 2014
Tagged: In Memoriam


Merton L. Dillon

Merton L. Dillon, professor at Ohio State University, passed away on May 3, 2013. A member of the OAH since 1950, Dillon retired from teaching in 1991. The following remembrance of Professor Dillon was written by Hugh Davis, Professor Emeritus of History, Southern Connecticut State University.

Merton Lynn Dillon (1924-2013)

Merton Dillon, professor emeritus of history at Ohio State University and an OAH member since 1950, died on May 4, 2013, from polymyositis. During his career, he taught a broad array of courses on American history, especially antislavery, slavery, the American South, and the Civil War and Reconstruction. He also guided numerous Master's theses and doctoral dissertations in these subject areas. Merton was a model teacher-scholar who impressed upon his students the necessity of engaging in thorough research In primary and secondary sources. He insisted that his students ask hard questions of the evidence and encouraged them to write succinctly and clearly. Merton was a supportive and attentive mentor to his former students and other historians. Students were drawn to Dillon by his sterling scholarship, his carefully crafted lectures, and his exemplary values. While deeply committed to the principles of justice and equality, he never sought to impose his views on his students. He was a modest man of great integrity who lived and taught by example.

Merton was born on April 4, 1924, in Addison, Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State Normal College in 1945, and then earned his MA in 1948 and his PhD in 1951 from the University of Michigan, where he studied under Dwight Dumond. He subsequently taught at the New Mexico Military Institute (1951-1956), Texas Tech College (1956-1965), and Northern Illinois University (1965-1967), before moving to Ohio State University (1967-1991).

In his dissertation on "The Antislavery Movement in Illinois, 1809-1844," and related articles and two books, Merton reoriented antislavery scholarship away from Garrisonian abolitionism in the Northeast after 1830 and toward antislavery efforts in the West and South prior to the 1830s. His first two books—Elijah P. Lovejoy, Abolitionist Editor (1961) and Benjamin Lundy and the Struggle for Negro Freedom (1966)—reinforced that shift in orientation in antislavery historical studies.

In 1959, Dillon wrote a seminal article, "The Failure of American Abolitionists," which reflected his conviction that abolitionists "failed" because slavery was destroyed by war rather than moral arguments and political pressure. Yet he also came to acknowledge that slaves and their northern black and white allies were instrumental in pushing slavery toward extinction. Dillon most fully developed his analysis of antislavery dissent in The Abolitionists: The Growth of a Dissenting Minority (1974), which remained a leading general study in the field for many years. His belief that slave resistance deeply influenced antislavery ideology and progressively weakened the institution of slavery formed the core argument in his Slavery Attacked: Southern Slaves and Their Allies (1990). Throughout this and other studies, he contended that individual actions and choices played a significant role in shaping history. This theme inspired the essays in a festschrift to Dillon, The Moment of Decision: Biographical Essays on American Character and Regional Identity (1994), edited by Randall M. Miller and John R. McKivigan.

Dillon also remained interested in the sources of southern thought. In his biography of an influential southern historian—Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Historian of the Old South (1985)—he re-examined the racist underpinnings of southern historical thought. Upon his retirement in 1991, Dillon bought a farm near his family in Michigan, where he continued to read history and mentor his former students and colleagues. He is survived by a sister and a brother.

—Hugh Davis, Professor Emeritus of History, Southern Connecticut State University.

More information is available at: http://www.brownvanhemert.com/obituary/Dr.-Merton-L.-Dillon-PhD/Somerset-Twp.-Jerome-MI/1204427

Posted: January 13, 2014
Tagged: In Memoriam


Robert F. Engs

Robert F. Engs passed away on January 14, 2013. He is a former visiting professor of history at William & Mary, and emeritus professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Engs joined the OAH in 1975.

More information is available at: http://www.wm.edu/news/announcements/2013/message-on-the-passing-of-robert-f.-engs.php

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


John K. Thomas

John Kyle Thomas, PhD, died on March 12, 2013. Born November 30, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Thomas was professor of history at Roane State Community College.

More information is available at: http://smithmortuary.tributes.com/show/Dr.-John-K.-Thomas-95413773

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Pauline Maier

Pauline Maier, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Techonology, passed away on August 12, 2013. A life member of the Organiation of American Historians, Maier joined the organization in 1973.

More information is available at: http://s-usih.org/2013/08/pauline-maier-1938-2013.html

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Robert Tropea

Robert Tropea of Woburn, Massachusetts, passed away on July 25, 2013.

More information is available at: http://www.lynch-cantillon.com/Obituary?id=2948

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Gilbert Schuyler Bahn

Gilbert S. Bahn of Moorpark, California, died on July 3, 2013.

More information is available at: http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Gilbert-Bahn&lc=4800&pid=165682285&mid=5590920

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Ann J. Lane

Ann J. Lane, a pioneer in Women’s History and Women’s Studies, passed away on Memorial Day, May 27, at the age of 81. She had retired in 2009 from the University of Virginia, where she was Professor of History and director of Women’s Studies (now the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Program) from 1990 to 2003.

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Posted: August 29, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Arvarh Strickland

Historian and fifty-year member of the OAH, Arvarh Strickland, died April 30, 2013 at the age of 82. Strickland made history in 1969 when he became the first African American to hold a tenure-track position at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He served with distinction in various capacities as a faculty member and chair of the Department of History; principal architect of the MU Black Studies Program; associate vice president of academic affairs, University of Missouri System; and special assistant to the MU Chancellor.

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Posted: May 13, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, Georgetown University professor and OAH Life Member, passed away in December, 2012.

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Posted: April 30, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Robert Remini

Robert Remini, former historian for the US House of Representatives, died April 1, 2013. He was 91 years old. A member of the Organization of American Historians for more than 52 years, Remini was an award-winning biographer and \"foremost Jacksonian scholar of our time.\"

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Posted: April 3, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Edward M. Bennett

Edward M. Bennett died on March 3, 2013. He taught for 33 years at Washington State University and was a member of the OAH for more than 50 years.

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Posted: March 26, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Robert H. Zieger

Robert H. Zieger, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Florida, passed away on March 6, 2013. Zieger, a fify-one-year member of the OAH, began his teaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1964 and moved to the University of Florida in 1986. Paul Ortiz, University of Florida, has written a remembrance of Professor Zieger for the Southern Labor Studies Association Web site.

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Posted: March 26, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Walter L. Sargent

Walter L. Sargent, University of Maine Farmington, passed away on January 27.

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Posted: March 26, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Vernon S. "Pete" Braswell

Vernon S. \"Pete\" Braswell died January 31, 2013. Braswell taught American history at Del Mar College from 1965 until 1989. He was in his fiftieth year as a member of the Organization of American Historians.

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Posted: March 26, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Remembering Gerda Lerner, a Pioneer in Women's History

Gerda Lerner, past president of the Organization of American Historians (1981-1982), and pioneer in women's and gender history, passed away on January 2, 2013 at the age of 92.

The following remembrance of Gerda Lerner was prepared by Mari Jo Buhle, and appeared in the February 2013 issue of OAH Outlook.

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Posted: January 4, 2013
Tagged: In Memoriam


Thomas K. McCraw

Thomas K. McCraw, Isidor Straus Professor of Business History, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School (HBS), and former editor of the Business History Review, died on Saturday, November 3, 2012, following a long illness.

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Posted: December 13, 2012
Tagged: In Memoriam


Herbert Shapiro

University of Cincinnati professor emeritus Herbert Shapiro passed away on October 17, 2012. Shapiro was a member of OAH for more than forty-five years. Roger Daniels remembers \"Herb\" Shapiro, his colleague at the University of Cincinnati.

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Posted: December 12, 2012
Tagged: In Memoriam


Alfred F. Young

Northern Illinois University professor Alfred F. Young passed away Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at the age of 87. Young, a fifty year member of the OAH, was the recipient of the OAH Distinguished Service Award in 2000. Upon his retirement from NIU, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago, until 2005.

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Posted: November 7, 2012
Tagged: In Memoriam


Alexander Saxton

University of California, Los Angeles historian Alexander Saxton died on September 1, 2012 at the age of 93.

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Posted: November 6, 2012
Tagged: In Memoriam