Lucius J. Barker,Ph.D, a political scientist who broke through racial barriers to become a leader in constitutional law, civil liberties, and African-American politics, died in his Northern California home on June 21 of complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 92.
Barker, who was the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at Stanford, served as president of the American Political Science Association in 1992-93. He was the second Black leader to hold that position.
Judith Goldstein, chair of Stanford’s Department of Political Science and the Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication, said Barker committed his career to understanding how the American political system can represent the interests of all citizens.
Paula McClain, current president of the APSA, Duke University professor of political science and public policy, dean of the graduate school and vice provost for graduate education, called Barker “a giant in the field of political science.”
She said, “Yet, despite his eminence, Lucius was a generous and selfless human being who mentored numerous young scholars of all races, providing them opportunities to achieve their scholarly potential. The discipline and the academy, in general, need more Lucius Barkers.”
Barker also served as president of the Midwest Political Science Association and was the founding editor of the National Political Science Review, a publication of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, an organization for which he also served as president.
The fifth of six children, Barker was born on June 11, 1928, in Franklinton, Louisiana, to college-educated parents who taught in – but were undeterred by – the segregated school system. After graduating high school, Barker attended Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, where he pledged the Beta Sigma chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1949. He then attended the University of Illinois for graduate studies in constitutional law and civil liberties. His mentor was Jack Peltason, who later became president of the University of California system. Barker earned his PhD from Illinois in 1954, and began his teaching career there as a fellow.
Barker returned to Southern University to teach for several years before moving to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He spent the 1964-65 academic year as a Liberal Arts Fellow of Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. In 1967, Peltason, then chancellor, recruited Barker to the University of Illinois to serve as assistant chancellor. In 1969, Washington University in St. Louis recruited him to teach and chair the political science department as the Edna Fischel Gellhorn Professor. He remained there until 1990, when he joined Stanford.
At Stanford, he twice served as chair of the Department of Political Science and joined Sigma Pi Phi fraternity (known as the Boulé). As a Stanford faculty member, he was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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Photo by Jim Vanides