In Memoriam

Monroe Lee Billington (1928-2008)

Jon Hunner, September 2008

Founding head of history department at New Mexico State

Monroe BillingtonMonroe Lee Billington, emeritus professor at New Mexico State University, passed away suddenly on May 13, 2008. Born on March 4, 1928, at Duncan, Oklahoma, Billington earned his bachelor's degree at the Oklahoma Baptist University in 1950, his master's at the University of Oklahoma in 1951, and his PhD at the University of Kentucky in 1955. He began his four decades as a professor at the University of South Dakota, moved on to the University of Toledo, and then to New Mexico State University. While at NMSU, Billington was the founding head of the history department from 1968 to 1975. He helped create an independent Department of History, the public history program, and the Monroe Billington Award given annually for the best master's thesis. He also initiated the Lydie Thiery Hull Endowment that continues to support history graduate students. He served as Visiting Fulbright Professor at the University of Vienna (Austria) in 1962–63, at the University of the Ryukyus (Japan) in 1985, and the University of Genoa (Italy) in 1989. He retired from NMSU in 1995.

His books include Thomas P. Gore: The Blind Senator from Oklahoma (1967), The American South: A Brief History (1971), The Political South in the Twentieth Century (1975), Southern Politics since the Civil War (1984), and New Mexico's Buffalo Soldiers, 1866–1900 (1991). He published 15 books and more than 80 articles, reviews, essays, and chapters on a wide range of topics including agriculture, religion, segregation, and politics. Billington was a generous professor committed to his students, his colleagues, his community through Rotary and other organizations, and to the teaching of history. He is survived by his wife Wilma, his children Marion, Mari, and Melinda, and his stepchildren Randall, Richard, Rosemary, and Ruthann. Donations can be made to the Monroe Billington Award in the history department at New Mexico State University.

—Jon Hunner
New Mexico State University