Charles A. Barker, scholar, pacifist led Hopkins history department

September 19, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Charles Albro Barker, historian, scholar and author, died of heart failure Sept. 12 at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Calif. The former chairman of the Johns Hopkins University history department was 88.

He joined the university in 1945 and chaired its history department from 1967 until his retirement in 1972.

Dr. Barker's tenure at Hopkins was marked by participation in the peace movement. He was founder and first president of the Conference on Peace Research in History of the American Historical Association.

In 1959, he became the first chairman of the Baltimore Seminar on Arms Control.

In 1961, he was one of eight Maryland professors who called for the abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

"To perpetuate this committee is to perpetuate a threat to our liberties," said the statement signed by the professors. "During its 24-year history, the House committee has been unrelenting in its harassing of teachers."

"More than anybody I've ever known," said his son, John G. Barker of New York, "he was committed to reason, justice and peace and saw that war was counter-productive."

He was born and grew up in Washington, D.C.

His mother, Alice Albro, was in 1898 the first woman awarded a doctorate in chemistry at Yale. His father was a builder.

He received his early education in schools in Washington and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees jointly in 1926 and ++ his Ph.D. in history from Yale University in 1932. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

He began his academic career in 1928, teaching at Smith College, and subsequently taught at Mills College, Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University and the American University of Beirut.

He also had visiting fellowships at the Huntington Library and was a Fulbright Scholar at Punjab University in 1970-1971.

He was known for his biography of economist Henry George, which won an award from the Henry George Society in New York in 1955.

His book, "The Background of the Revolution in Maryland," won the Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Society in 1941.

It was the first work to examine in detail the social, economic and political forces that swayed the state toward revolution.

"American Convictions," published in 1971, examined U.S. political and social issues through 1850 and received the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Robert Cross, president of Swarthmore College, described the book as "an enormously sophisticated interpretation of the distinctly American aspects of thought and a remarkable achievement [that] will gain recognition as a classic in American studies."

At his death, Dr. Barker was working on a sequel covering comparable issues since 1850, which the Johns Hopkins University Press was to publish.

At 84, he decided to rewrite the sequel.

"He changed his slant," his son said. "He was dogged and decided that after 20 years of working on the second volume that he had finally found the reasonable insightfulness that he was seeking -- not an easy thing to do when you're that age."

He also was a contributing writer to "Memoirs of Elisha Oscar Crosby," in 1945; "Problems of World Disarmament," in 1963; and "Power and Law: American Dilemma in World Affairs," 1970.

"He was extremely kind," remembered Dr. Robert Forster, a former student and later a colleague in the history department at the Johns Hopkins University. "He had kind of a Quaker thread that ran through him. It was one of applying peaceful resolution to problems. He was of a pacifist persuasion, and it was a quality that I admired in the man."

Before moving to Santa Barbara in 1982, he had lived in homes in Roland Park, Cedarcroft and later an apartment on North Charles Street.

It was, however, at his summer home at Wonalacent, N.H., near (( North Conway in the White Mountains, that he found seclusion and peace, as well as enjoyment in hiking.

He was a member of the Hamilton Street Club, where he "loved sitting around being witty with grown men and serious scholars discussing practical jokes," his son recalled.

Dr. Barker was also a member of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church.

No services were held for Dr. Barker.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 61 years, Louise Chase Cottle of Santa Barbara; a daughter, Louise Barker Cannell of Santa Barbara; and two grandchildren.

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