Kingsley Blake Price

Despite Blindness, Longtime Johns Hopkins Philosophy Professor Traveled Widely And Wrote Numerous Papers

November 05, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Kingsley Blake Price, a retired philosophy professor who taught at the Johns Hopkins University for more than three decades, died Oct. 27 of multiple organ failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 92.

Born in Salem, Ind., the son of a Baptist minister and homemaker, he later moved with his family to Santa Rosa, Calif., until finally settling in Berkeley, Calif.

He was 3 1/2 years old when he fell ill with scarlet fever, which left him blind. As a boy, he was encouraged by his parents, who sent him to a boarding school to learn Braille, to do things for himself.

He was a graduate of University High School in Berkeley, and earned his bachelor's degree with the highest honors from the University of California at Berkeley in 1938.

After earning his bachelor's degree, he considered seeking a career as a concert pianist but decided to pursue an academic career in philosophy.

Dr. Price received his master's degree and doctorate from Berkeley in 1942 and 1946, respectively. His dissertation, colleagues said, was on John Locke's theory of knowledge.

Before coming to Hopkins as an assistant professor of philosophy and education in 1953, he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of Nevada at Reno and Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.

"His appointment at Johns Hopkins called for him to do half his teaching in philosophy and half in education," said his longtime colleague and friend, Stephen F. Barker.

"Some years later, the department of education was eliminated from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and he became a full-time member of the department of philosophy, until his retirement in 1986," Dr. Barker said.

"He was a very gifted guy, and I'll always remember how independently he carried on," Dr. Barker, recalled.

Forest W. Hansen, a retired philosophy professor who now lives in Easton, had been a graduate student of Dr. Price's at Hopkins.

"We used to marvel at how he lived with his blindness and accomplished what he did. He continued turning out papers. He had a very good memory and was a sharp thinker," said Dr. Hansen.

"We used to watch him check his mailbox. He'd walk along a set of mailboxes while running his hand. And then he'd stop, bend down, and then thrust his key into it and, presto, get his mail," he said.

"Kingsley is really mourned by his former graduate students because many of them kept up a friendship with him long after leaving Hopkins. They stayed close," he said.

Dr. Barker said that his friend "lived alone throughout his adult life" and had "traveled extensively abroad, usually going alone."

He added that Dr. Price "hired readers, mostly students, to enable him to deal with his professional work and his personal business."

J. David Blankenship, who taught philosophy at the State University of New York at New Paltz until retiring several years ago, became acquainted with Dr. Price at Hopkins in the early 1960s.

"Kingsley has been one of my best friends for 40 years. He was a marvelous man with an exceptionally brilliant mind, and as a teacher was very rigorous but fair," recalled Dr. Blankenship.

"He was a man who had a wide range of knowledge. He was very learned in literature, art and music, which he coupled with a prodigious memory, and was very centered morally," he said.

Dr. Blankenship said that Dr. Price never relied on a seeing-eye dog or carried a cane.

"He used to walk from his office in Gilman Hall, down to Charles Street and over to St. Paul. He walked all the way by himself and without help or reliance on a dog or cane."

Dr. Price was a prolific contributor to philosophical journals, edited two books and was the author of "Education and Philosophical Thought," which has been called a standard in the field.

"One book he edited was on the philosophy of education and the other on the philosophy of music," Dr. Barker said. "In later years, he concentrated on aesthetics. One topic he dealt with concerned how to explain the sense in which music can be said to be joyful or sad."

In the 1950s, Dr. Price had a house built in Berkeley where he spent summers. After selling the house, he moved to Cloverhill Road, where he lived for two decades, before moving to One East University Parkway, a condominium, about 15 years ago.

He was an accomplished gardener and a connoisseur and collector of fine antique furniture. Earlier in his life, he made furniture in his home workshop.

Dr. Price enjoyed traveling to England, France, Italy and Greece, and visiting the many friends he had living in those countries.

His friends recalled his gift for informed conversation.

"He was a lively, witty conversationalist and made friends easily," Dr. Barker said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Price was flying back alone from California when all of the airliners were suddenly grounded because of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"He was stranded in the middle of the country without adequate resources," Dr. Barker said.

"Fortunately, he had struck up an acquaintance with his seatmate, who lived near where the plane had stopped. This man so enjoyed Kingsley's company that he took him home as a houseguest and entertained him until flights resumed," he said.

Plans for a memorial gathering were incomplete yesterday.

Surviving are a brother, Borden Price of Emeryville, Calif.; four sisters, Marti Rieg of Lake Oswego, Ore., Helen Price of Pacifica, Calif., Lillian Griesche of Orinda, Calif., and Allene Tumelty of Seal Beach, Calif.; and many nieces and nephews.

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