Robert Paul Browder (1921-2001)

Richard Cosgrove, November 2001

Robert Paul Browder, Professor Emeritus and former head of the Department of History of the University of Arizona, died in Tucson on April 29, 2001, at the age of 80.

Professor Browder, an authority on the Russian Revolution, was best known for his book, The Russian Provisional Government of 19l7: Documents (Stanford University Press, 1961). The book was co-authored by Aleksandr Feodorovich Kerensky, premier of the Russian Provisional Government from July through September of 1917, when the Bolsheviks overthrew his democratic government. They met in 1954 at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, where Browder was a visiting assistant professor. In 1955, while the book was in preparation, Professor Browder was one of the first 50 American scholars to be allowed into the Soviet Union to conduct research on the Provisional Government.

He was born January 25, 1921, in Spokane, Washington, the oldest and only surviving child of Paul McCrosky Browder and Helen Hungate Browder. He graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1938. He then went to Stanford University, supported by Converse and Gamble Scholarships, earning a BA with distinction in history in 1942. He was a member of Theta Chi fraternity.

Upon graduation from college, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He attended Officers Candidate School in Ithaca, New York, and served in the European, Mediterranean, and Pacific theaters as Gunnery Officer, Executive Officer, and Commanding Officer, successively, of the U.S.S. Thornhill (DE 195).

He was married to Rosemary Meininger, a graduate of Mills College, Oakland, California, on June 1, 1946, in Louisville, Kentucky. The couple had three daughters, but were divorced in 1970.

Professor Browder earned his MA in history from Stanford University in 1947, and his PhD in history from Harvard University in 1950. He was an Austin Fellow at Harvard from 1947 to 1948, and a Rockefeller Research Fellow in Slavic Studies at the Hoover Institution from 1949 to 1951.

He served as an instructor in the Department of History at Stanford, 1950–1951, before joining the history department of the University of Colorado in 1951 as an instructor. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1952, associate professor in 1956, and full professor in 1960. In 1954 his doctoral dissertation, "The Origins of Soviet-American Diplomacy," was published by Princeton University Press and won Honorable Mention for the AHA's George Louis Beer Prize for the best work on European international history since 1895. He was a research associate at the Hoover Institution from 1956 to 1958. He served as chair of the Department of History from 1960 to 1963, as acting dean of the graduate school from 1962 to 1964, and as the director of the Center for Slavic and East European Studies from 1964 to 1965.

In 1965 he became head of the department of history at Kansas State University, where he worked closely with Alf Landon, former governor of Kansas and Republican candidate for president in 1936, to establish the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. An early opponent of the Viet Nam War, Professor Browder was the instigator and moderator of a teach-in at Kansas State in 1967, one of the first held in the rural midwest.

From 1969 until his retirement in 1987, he was professor of history at the University of Arizona, serving as head from 1969 until 1978. During that time he renewed his interest in American diplomatic history, and his Independent: A Biography of Lewis W. Douglas, co-authored with Thomas G. Smith, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1986. While working on this book, Professor Browder was a senior associate member at St. Antony's College, Oxford University, in 1973, and a visiting scholar at Churchill College, Cambridge University, in 1976. The work was supported in part by a Rockefeller Foundation Grant for Research in 1977 and a Grant for Research from the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute from 1979 to 1980.

Professor Browder was a member of the American Historical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, the Western Slavic Association, the Rocky Mountain Slavic Association, and the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association. He was a Mason and a lifelong Democrat. He worked hard for Adlai Stevenson in both of Stevenson's unsuccessful presidential campaigns against Eisenhower, and treasured a letter from Stevenson acknowledging this support.

He is survived by three daughters, Kate Gerard of Santa Monica, Ann Browder of Seattle, and Judy Browder of Nerja, Spain; one granddaughter, Elaine Heberlein of Seattle; and longtime companion Joanne Farmer Suppes of Tucson and her family. At his request, no memorial service will be held.

—Richard Cosgrove
University of Arizona