News in American History

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.

In Memoriam: Thea K. Hunter

Dr. T.K. Hunter died of congestive heart failure on December 17, 2018, in New York City. Born there on July 4, 1956, to mathematician Herman Hunter and Grace Wood Hunter, a paralegal, she is survived by one brother Eric Hunter, Providence, RI, and many friends.

Thea Kai Hunter graduated from Barnard College (B.A. in Biology and Art History, 1978), Hunter College (M.A. in Art History, 1996), and Columbia University (M.A. in History, 1998; Ph.D., 2005). Her doctoral advisor Eric Foner, speaking at a memorial service in January, praised Dr. Hunter as a pioneer in the trans-Atlantic study of law and slavery.

Her dissertation, “Publishing Freedom, Winning Arguments: Somerset, Natural Rights and Massachusetts Freedom Cases, 1772-1836,” explored the landmark decision that slaves transported to England could not be forcibly returned to the colonies. She established that people of African descent not only made claims to individual liberty but thereby transformed Enlightenment principles, bolstering the pursuit of freedom for African-descended people throughout the Atlantic World.

T.K. Hunter’s publications included “Geographies of Liberty,” in Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (2006); and “Transatlantic Negotiations: Lord Mansfield, Liberty and Somerset,” Texas Wesleyan Law Review (2007). Her professional and personal papers will be donated to the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe/Harvard.

Dr. Hunter spent most of her career as a part-time instructor. After resigning a tenure-track assistant professorship at Western Connecticut State University in 2006, she taught a wide variety of courses at Princeton University, Columbia University, Montclair State University, Horace Mann School, Manhattan College, Brooklyn College, the New School, and City College of New York. She began a new research project at City College’s Rifkind Center for the Humanities and the Arts, as a Faculty Fellow in 2017-2018. She was first adjunct instructor selected for this fellowship.

Dr. Hunter's work as adjunct faculty was recently chronicled by the Atlantic and discussed widely on social media.

Posted: April 25, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Robert K. Murray

The OAH's longest serving member, Robert K. Murray, who joined in 1947, has died at the age of 96. Dr. Murray served as the OAH Treasurer from 1975 to 1984. Prior to his passing, Dr. Murray composed his own obituary, which can be read here. 

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Posted: April 15, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam, News of the Organization


In Memoriam: Anne Firor Scott

By William Chafe

Anne Firor Scott, a brilliant historian who helped establish the field of women’s history in the 1970s, passed away at the age of 97 this past February. Anne was a devoted mother, wife and grandmother, an engaged colleague, a brilliant scholar, a dear friend. But above all she was a pioneer.

Read full obituary here >>

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Posted: April 12, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam, News of the Organization


In Memoriam: Dr. James R. Reckner (1940-2018)

Dr. James R. Reckner passed away November 16, 2018, in Dallas, Texas, at the age of 78. Dr. Reckner served as a sailor in the U.S. Navy and completed two tours in Vietnam. After retiring from the Navy in 1978 Dr. Reckner received his Ph.D. from the University of Auckland. He taught at Texas Tech University for 20 years. During that time, he founded the Vietnam Center and Archive that is housed there. Dr. Reckner is known for his 1988 work Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet.

For full details and obituary, click here>>

Posted: March 13, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Dr. Richard H. Brown (1927-2019)

Dr. Richard H. Brown (Dick) passed away on January 16, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 91. He received his Ph.D. is U.S. History from Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1955. In the early 1970's Dr. Brown joined the staff of Chicago's Newberry Library. It is said that he is one of the handful of people responsible for crafting the modern independent research library. Dr. Brown believed that the humanities were for everyone, he worked to make history relevant to the general public and "to bring history and historical thinking to young people." in 1973, Brown became the associate director of research and educational programs. He went on to become Newberry's first academic vice president in 1983. Brown is known for his 1964 book The Hero and the People: The Meaning of Jacksonian Democracy.

For further details and obituary, click here>>

Posted: March 13, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Dr. Phillip Earl Myers (1944-2017)

Dr. Phillip Earl Myers passed away November 3, 2017, at the age of 73. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He was a preeminent Civil War Historian with a focus on European Diplomacy. In 2008 he authored Caution and Cooperation: The American Civil War in British-American Relations as well as his 2015 Dissolving Tensions: Rapprochment and Resolution in British-American-Canadian Relations in the Treaty of Washington Era, 1865-1914.

For full details and obituary, click here>>

Posted: March 13, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: George Athan Billias (1919-2018)

Author, husband, Professor emeritus, father, Bronze star recipient. These are just some of the titles that George Athan Billias held during his 99 years. Dr. Billias passed away on August 16, 2018, at his home in Worcester, Massachusetts. He received his first teaching position at the University of Maine in Orono, where he taught until 1961. The following year he accepted the position of director of the American history graduate program at Clark University. He taught there for 27 years and held the title of Jacob and Frances Hiatt Professor of History. Billias authored, edited, and coedited fourteen volumes. He is most noted for his work American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World, 1776-1989; A Global Perspective.

For full details and obituary, click here>>

Posted: February 19, 2019
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: John Drane Milligan (1924-2018)

Professor John Milligan, a longtime member of the University at Buffalo History Department, passed away on July 8 in his 94th year. Professor Milligan will be remembered by many generations of history students for his engaging courses on the U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction as well as on race, slavery, and historiography and theory in history. He will also be remembered for his consistent support for high standards of instruction that sought to engage students in caring about moral issues, when and where they presented themselves in the study of the past.

Students had no stronger advocate during the years of Milligan’s presence in the UB History Department. A man of strong but disciplined and understated social and political commitments, Milligan was able to convey his concerns for the world and the place of History in the efforts to improve the world without ever insisting that the price for gaining his respect and affection was that students or colleagues had to agree with him. Young faculty members had no better exemplar for conducting themselves with restraint than John, who was by example, rather than preaching, a very effective mentor.

John Milligan was born in New York City, but like his father, Carl Glover Milligan, who graduated with an Engineering degree in 1896, sought his education in the Midwest at the University of Michigan. After service in the Caribbean in the Army Air Corps in World War II guarding the Panama Canal, like many returning veterans Milligan was well into his twenties when he received his B.A. in 1952 and his M.A. in 1953. He went on receive his doctorate at Michigan in 1961, serving as a teaching fellow for two years while engaged in research on his dissertation, supervised by Dwight L. Dumond and Sidney Fine.

The influence of his mentor Professor Dumond, who devoted his career to study of the antislavery movement, was particularly apparent. Dumond himself had studied under U.B. Phillips, a prodigious scholar who left a most complicated legacy. Very unlike Phillips, Dumond insisted on recognizing that the condition of African Americans “always provided the acid test of American democracy.”

Milligan came to UB in 1962, and taught consistently until his retirement over four decades later. His dissertation became the basis for his outstanding monograph, Gunboats down the Mississippi, which was published in 1965, and in a second edition in 1980, and which acknowledged his debts to the aforementioned scholars Dumond and Fine. Milligan was one of the first to draw attention to the importance of the fresh water navy and the neglected Union naval campaign that penetrated deep into the secessionist South along the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers in 1862 and 1863.The book continues to be cited by historians, most recently by Earl J. Hess, as a thorough survey of that effective campaign. Public historians have likewise drawn on Professor Milligan’s scholarship citing his work on information panels for the gunboat Cairo exhibit at the Vicksburg National Military Park. A subsequent study, edited by Professor Milligan, From the Fresh-water Navy: 1861-64: The Lett ers of Acting Master's Mate Henry R. Browne and Acting Ensign Symmes E. Browne (1970) was also devoted to the same naval theater.

His scholarship also included articles in the journals Civil War History and History and Theory, the latter of which deconstructed a primary source that contained explosive charges made by a Union naval officer who served on the inland waters. Professor Milligan rightly termed the accusations “sensational” and then proceeded to critically analyze the source in a truly dazzling article tailor-made for an historical methods course.

Professor Milligan’s intellectual specialization was military history, not the new military-and-society type of social and cultural history of warfare, but rather the older strategy-and-tactics type of military history. Several colleagues found Milligan’s engagement with military history difficult to understand. A gentle, soft-spoken man, who abhorred violence, some wondered what about war held an interest for him. The answer lay in his various engagements with the past. He believed in the Union cause as necessary to end slavery, and respected the men who saw it to success on the battlefield. His analytical interests were in questions of the assertion and rewarding of military leadership among individual officers, each in Milligan’s telling with his own singular and significant character, within the complex hierarchy that is a military institution.

Milligan and his wife Joyce, who died in 2007, were participants, often in leadership roles, in many progressive causes within Buffalo having to do with opposing war, desegregation and racial equality, civil liberties, and social reform, and were active in a number of local and national political campaigns. The Milligans expressed their concern with racial justice in setting up the Joyce J. and John D. Milligan and Family Scholarships for under-represented minority students studying history at UB.

Professor Milligan leaves four daughters and one grandchild as well as former colleagues and students to remember him.

-Thomas M. Grace

A version of this tribute appeared in the history department newsletter of the University at Buffalo.

Posted: October 30, 2018
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Ronald Hoffman (1941-2018)

Ronald Hoffman, who retired as Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and Professor of History at William & Mary in 2013, passed away on September 4th.
He is survived by his partner, Sally Mason; his daughter and son-in-law, Maia Hoffman and Avi Melamed; his son and daughter-in-law, Barak Hoffman and Dora Lemus; and his sister, Joanne Giza.

A distinguished scholar of the American Revolution, author or editor of dozens of books, and the editor of the Papers of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and the last of the signers to die, Dr. Hoffman was the seventh, and longest serving, Director of the Omohundro Institute.
A member of the OAH Distinguished Lectureship program, he taught at the University of Maryland, College Park (1969-1994) and, parallel to his appointment at the OI, was Professor of History at William & Mary (1992-2013).

For further information, click here>>

Posted: October 16, 2018
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Ira Berlin

It is with great sadness that the OAH notes the passing of Ira Berlin.

Professor Berlin was a long-time member of the OAH (having joined in 1986) and served as OAH President from 2002-2003. Professor Berlin was Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland and was well known for his scholarship on the history of slavery. Obituaries in the Washington Post and New York Times can be found at https://goo.gl/rJKxQK and https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/06/06/arts/ap-us-obit-ira-berlin.html

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Posted: June 7, 2018
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Aidan J. Smith

Aidan J. Smith

On Monday, April 23, the history community lost a friend and colleague when Aidan J. Smith, OAH Public History Manager, unexpectedly passed away. Aidan was a dedicated historian who worked tirelessly overseeing the OAH-NPS collaboration. His loss is being felt across the country and throughout our community. Arrangements are still being finalized, but those who wish to do so can make donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation in his honor. Notes of condolence for his partner and family can be sent in care of the OAH national office.

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Posted: April 27, 2018
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Jacob Dorn

The Department of History is saddened to share that Dr. Jacob H. Dorn, professor emeritus, passed away Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack over the weekend. He was 77 years old. Jake retired in June 2012, after an extraordinary career of 47 years of teaching, scholarship, and service at Wright State and in the wider community.

Jake was among the founding faculty of the University. He obtained his PhD. from the University of Oregon at the remarkably young age of 25. Shortly thereafter, he began teaching at what was then the Dayton campus of Ohio State and Miami Universities in 1965. He joined the faculty full time when the university became independent, and rose to the rank of full Professor by 1974. He taught American history, and specialized in social, intellectual and religious history, particularly in the Progressive Era. In 1972 he founded, and was the director for the next fifteen years, of the university's Honors Program. He oversaw countless senior and Master's theses. Generations of students considered him an outstanding teacher and mentor.

He was also an accomplished scholar. Jake was the author of Washington Gladden: Prophet of the Social Gospel (Ohio State University, 1967), just reprinted in paperback. He and his colleagues Carl M. Becker and Paul G. Merriam compiled A Bibliography of Sources for Dayton, Ohio, 1850-1950 (1971), funded by the National Science Foundation . He was the editor of a collection of essays, Socialism and Christianity in early 20th Century America (Greenwood Press, 1998). He was also the author of numerous articles, contributions and book reviews in a variety of scholarly journals and edited collections.

Jake believed strongly in selfless service to the university, the profession, and the wider community. He was deeply involved with the Ohio Academy of History, serving two terms as president and on virtually every committee. He was particularly active in the Dayton Council on World Affairs (DCOWA), served as a first reader with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was involved with the National Council on U.S./Arab Relations. He served on the board of the American Baptist Historical Society, with the Ohio Board for United Ministries in Higher Education, and with many, many other organizations. He gave of his time freely for innumerable presentations to community groups large and small.

As one former colleague remembered, "I admired and appreciated Jake for his dignity, depth of scholarship, wisdom, and compassionate concern for people." As another stated, "Jake Dorn was the department." He will be missed by the faculty with whom he worked and the generations of students whom he taught. A memorial service in his memory will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 N. Wilkinson St, Dayton, OH 45402 at 11:00 AM. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Jacob H. Dorn Scholarship Fund. Checks made out to the Wright State University Foundation may be sent to the attention of Sara Woodhull, Wright State University Foundation, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Dayton OH 45435 with a notation that they should be directed to the Dorn fund.

Jonathan Reed Winkler

Professor & Chair

Department of History

Posted: September 28, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Ronald Schaffer

Ronald Schaffer, Professor of History Emeritus at California State University, Northridge, passed away on September 1 at age eighty-five. A Princeton Ph.D. and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he taught at Northridge from 1965 to 1999. His most important scholarly works were Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II (1985) and America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State (1991), both published by Oxford University Press. His articles appeared in prominent scholarly journals, and he consulted extensively for public television. In recent years, he had been at work on a book about American aviators during World War I.

Posted: September 14, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Mary Nickliss

Mary Nickliss, a devoted and loving wife and mother, passed away on May 18, 2017. The OAH Mary Nickliss Prize in U.S. Women's and/or Gender History was created and funded in her honor by her daughter, OAH member Alexandra Nickliss. The prize acknowledges the generations of women whose opportunities were limited by the historical circumstances in which they lived. Mary Nickliss was grateful for the honor the prize bestowed upon her while she was alive. She was the child of Serbian immigrants and a native of Pennsylvania who lived most of her life in California. She was brilliant, methodical, resilient, and strong. Part of a generation that survived the Great Depression, she was an avid supporter of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Posted: June 27, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Hamilton Cravens

The OAH notes with sadness that longtime member and OAH supporter Hamilton Cravens passed away late last year. His obituary is available here.

Posted: March 10, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Herbert Parmet

The OAH is saddened to learn of the passing of Herbert Parmet. He died on January 25, 2017 at the age of 87.

The History News Network published an obituary which can be viewed here.

Posted: March 10, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: James Horton

The OAH notes with sadness the passing of James Horton, past OAH president (2004-2005) on February 20, 2017. A print obituary will appear in the May issue of The American Historian.

Posted: February 24, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Joyce Appleby

OAH distinguished member and past president Joyce Appleby (1991-1992) died on December 23, 2016. An obituary for her will appear in the May issue of The American Historian.

Her obituary that appeared in the New York Times can be read here.

Her obituary that was issued by the History Department of UCLA can be read here.

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Posted: February 21, 2017
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Mark S. Foster

Mark S. Foster, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado Denver, (May 2, 1939 - October 21, 2016) was a prolific scholar of twentieth-century American history, authoring eleven books, plus dozens of articles. Among his most well-known books are From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation 1900 1940 (1981); Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West (1989); and Castles in the Sand: The Life and Times of Carl G. Fisher (2000). Foster was a life member of the Organization of American Historians, and had been a member for almost 50 years.

Foster taught at the University of Colorado Denver for thirty-three years, beginning in 1972 at what was then a young campus, and retiring in 2005, having helped the university grow toward maturity. His dynamic teaching and intense dedication transformed many students into enthusiastic historians. He loved nothing more than sharing his excitement and apparently infinite knowledge about history with everyone—students and colleagues, as well as friends in any setting.

That excitement about history combined with Foster's avid sportsmanship to produce three scholarly books and many articles on the history of baseball in Colorado. The combination also energized decades of participation in nineteenth-century vintage baseball. In addition, that blend of historian and sportsman animated countless guest lectures in which Foster wore his vintage baseball uniform, alternating between the voice of an 1870s-era gentleman with decidedly illiberal attitudes and his historian's voice.

Foster earned his B.A. in Philosophy at Brown University in 1961. At the University of Southern California, he earned a Master's degree in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1971, both in American history. His research and teaching won numerous honors at CU Denver, including Teacher of the Year in 1983 and Researcher of the Year in 2001, plus the University of Colorado Medal in 2007.

Contributions are welcome to the Mark Foster Scholarship in History Fund at the University of Colorado Denver.

Posted: November 28, 2016
Tagged: In Memoriam


OAH Mourns the Passing of Allan G. Bogue

The OAH is saddened to learn of the passing of Allan G. Bogue. He died on August 1, 2016 at the age of 95. He served as president of the Organization of American Historians from 1982 to 1983.

Bogue was born May 12, 1921. He was as a Lecturer in Economics and History at the University of Ontario, 1949-1952; an Assistant Professor at State University of Iowa, and the Chair of the Department of History, State University of Iowa, 1959-1963. In 1964 he became a Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1968 he became the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. He was Chairman of the History Department from 1972-1973. He also served as a visiting professor at various universities including the Thord-Gray Lecturing Fellow, Uppsala University, Sweden, 1968 and in 1971-1972, was a visiting professor at Harvard University.

Bogue has won numerous awards for his work including, a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1970, Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Fellow (Cal Tech), 1975. He was elected and inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, 1985-1986 and shared in the Caughey Prize for best book in Western American history in previous year, 1995. He wrote 7 books including From Prairie to Corn Belt: Farming on the Illinois and Iowa Prairies in the Nineteenth Century, 1963, and Frederick Jackson Turner: Strange Roads Going Down, 1998. He also collaborated on 12 other books and published 73 articles during his career.

He was a fellow of the Agricultural History Society, an honorary life member of the Western History Association, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Margaret Bogue, Professor Emerita of the History Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison and three daughters.

Allan Bogue's full obituary can be read here.

Posted: August 8, 2016
Tagged: In Memoriam