Apr. 7, 2008
By Gayle Ronan Sims
Inquirer Staff Writer
Alan Dawley, 64, of West Mount Airy, an author of social history, a
professor at the College of New Jersey in Trenton, and a civil-rights
and peace activist, died March 12 of heart failure while on a trip to
study Spanish in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
A leader in the field of U.S. social history, Dr. Dawley's first
book, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn,
received the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 1976. He also wrote
Struggles for Justice and Changing the World and, at the time of his
death, was revising the textbook Global America, a look at
20th-century U.S. history from a world perspective.
Dr. Dawley was born and raised in Milwaukee and graduated in 1965
from Oberlin College with a bachelor's degree in history. He earned a
master's degree and doctorate in U.S. social history from Harvard in
1971. He married Katy Wechsler in 1966, and they raised two sons.
A history professor at the College of New Jersey in Trenton since
1970, Dr. Dawley believed in making history as well as studying it.
In the summer of 1962, he helped rebuild a church that had been
burned outside Jackson, Miss., and in 1964 he helped African
Americans register to vote during the Mississippi Freedom Summer.
"That summer, he evolved into a man with a purpose," said his wife.
"He was editor of the Mississippi Free Press in 1964 and became
committed to achieve goals of justice, civil-rights and antiwar movements."
When he and his family moved to Langhorne in 1970, Dr. Dawley was on
the board of the Bucks County Housing Group, which provided social
services for the homeless. After moving to Mount Airy in 1995, he
joined the South Mount Airy Task Force and the board of the Weaver's
Way Co-op. He was a member of Historians Against the War and
frequently marched in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Last
year, he was arrested for civil disobedience during an antiwar
demonstration in Washington and at a protest at Lockheed Martin in
King of Prussia.
Dr. Dawley lectured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He
had recently returned from a trip to the University of Tokyo.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Dawley is survived by sons Aaron and
Evan; two granddaughters; and a brother.
A ceremony to honor Dr. Dawley will be held at 4:30 p.m. June 21 at
Unitarian Universalist Church, 6511 Lincoln Dr.
Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.