Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Jan 10 16:40:34 PST 2003

[Adolph Reed sent me this obit he wrote for his father, who died last week.]

Adolph Reed, Sr. (1921-2003) died on January 3 after a brief illness. Reed was a resident of Fayetteville since 1971, when he joined the political science faculty at the University of Arkansas. He retired with the title professor emeritus in 1994.

A native Arkansan, like so many others of his generation in the late 1930s Reed migrated to Chicago, where he worked as a railroad dining car waiter and sat in on classes at the University of Chicago. The vibrant social and political world of the city's black South Side remained a central formative experience in his life. He was a veteran of World War II, where he saw action in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He never ceased to remark on the contradiction of having been sent to fight the racist Nazis in a racially segregated United States Army.

After the war, Reed was among the ranks of the millions of World War II veterans who made use of the educational benefits provided by the G. I. Bill of Rights. He completed his undergraduate education at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. He then pursued post-graduate education at New York University and American University.

Prior to coming to the University of Arkansas, Reed had served on the faculties at Arkansas A. M. & N. College in Pine Bluff (now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. He also held visiting professorships at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California at San Diego. He also served on the Arkansas and Louisiana State Constitutional Convention Committees.

At Southern University in 1962, Professor Reed led a faculty protest against the university administration's heavy-handed responses to students' civil rights activism. These events, and his role, are chronicled in Adam Fairclough's book, Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1912-1972.

His actions in the Southern University controversy were consistent with a lifelong commitment to social justice and demonstration of the courage of his convictions. In the 1940s in New York Reed was active in the American Labor Party, and in 1948 he was a delegate at the Progressive Party Convention that launched Henry Wallace's presidential campaign, in which Reed was also active. He was among the thousands who attended the famous September, 1949, concert in Peekskill, New York, to show support for singer Paul Robeson and to protest right-wing mob and police attacks against Robeson supporters on the site weeks before.

Reed remained convinced that both major parties are too beholden to corporate interests, which he frequently described as the basis for the "perverted priorities" of American politics. In recent years he became an active supporter of the new Labor Party, created in 1996, and its project of building a politics in this country based on a working class economic agenda that cuts across other potential social divisions. All his life he lamented what he perceived as the ruling class's success in inducing too many poor and working people to "identify the wrong enemies". He stressed the roles of the news media, education system and organized religion in perpetuating that situation.

These convictions shaped his approach to intellectual and political life. He was widely known among colleagues and in the political science profession as a person of uncommon honesty and integrity, a witty and engaging raconteur, big band jazz aficionado, a biting critic and a generous friend. Although he never shied away from expressing intellectual and political disagreements, he refused to take differences personally and could maintain friendships with those with whom he differed sharply. His teaching philosophy was simply to encourage students to think independently.

These qualities endeared him to generations of students, scores of whom retained close relations with him well into his retirement and their own middle age. His former students recall him as a brilliant, engaging lecturer, even when they disagreed with his views, and a common refrain of students from the beginning of his teaching career to its end was that he opened their eyes to the world and altered the course of their lives. Illinois Congressman Danny Davis, for instance, credits Reed for having shaped his political outlook.

Professor Reed was an important force in the development of a generation of b lack political scientists. He was a founding member of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and a prominent voice in the organization throughout its formative years.

Reed spent his early years in Dumas. He attended Dunbar High School in Little Rock. He was the son of Alphonso Reed, a prominent educator, and Mary Reed. He was married once, to Clarita Macdonald Reed of New Orleans, Louisiana. He is survived by a son, Adolph Reed, Jr. of New Haven, CT, who is also a professor of political science at the New School for Social Research in New York City, and a grandson, Tour F. Reed, of Bloomington, IL, a professor of history at Illinois State University.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, 1532 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

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