I have just learned the sad news that Sheldon Hackney passed away last Thursday. He was a professor of history at Princeton and later in life president of the University of Pennsylvania, head of the NEH, and finally returned to Penn in the history department. Hackney was a specialist in the history of the post-war south. He was from Montgomery.
I'm real sorry to hear this news; he was a really nice man, a serious scholar and, as this obituary from the Daily Pennsylvania points out, he did a lot to revitalize Penn at a difficult time in its history and in the history of the city of Philadelphia. Every time I visit Dan Filler I am always astonished and impressed by how much Penn has changed over the more than 25 years since I left there.
While most will remember him as the president who laid the groundwork for Penn's extraordinary strenghts I will remember him for Populism to Progressivism in Alabama, 1890-1910 (Princeton University Press, 1969). When I have a little more time I'd like to have a few other reflections down the road on what Hackney meant for scholarship on the south and what it meant to have someone from Alabama writing a progressive history of the difficult years of Jim Crow. I'm feeling particularly that way because of the recent controversy over the integration of the greek system at Alabama. Cully Clark's fabulous book about Governor Wallace's stand in the school house door was subtitled, "Segration's last stand at the University of Alabama." But I think this is.
The image is of the Furness Building at Penn.