AHA President, 1952


University of Illinois

From the American Historical Review 58:4 (July 1953)

James G. Randall (June 4, 1881–February 20, 1953) was a professor of history at the University of Illinois. During the summer of 1952 it became known to Randall and to his intimate friends that he was suffering from leukemia. He set his house in order, finished the third volume of his work on Lincoln as President, and began to write the fourth and final volume. Although he planned to attend the Christmas meeting of the Association, at which he was to read the presidential address, a change for the worse in his condition compelled him to remain in Urbana. He nevertheless continued research and writing on his fourth volume. He had finished nine chapters and outlined the rest of the book when he suddenly collapsed. Two days later, on Friday, February 20, death brought to a close a long and brilliant career as a teacher and scholar.

James G. Randall was born on June 24, 1881, in Indianapolis. He took his bachelor’s degree at Butler College in 1903 and his PhD at Chicago in 1911. After a tour of duty at various institutions including Roanoke College, where he married Ruth Painter, he came to the University of Illinois as assistant professor in 1920. Here for over thirty years he studied, lectured, and wrote on the administrative problems of the Civil War, which he had already begun to study in his book on the Confiscation of Property during the Civil War published in 1913. This book was followed by his study of Constitutional Problems under Lincoln (1926) and by his edition of the Diary of Orville Hickman Browning (Vol. I, 1925; Vol. II, 1931), in which he entered upon his study of the Lincoln theme. His most outstanding work was his volume Civil War and Reconstruction (1937), although his greatest fame came from his studies of Lincoln’s work as an executive. The first two volumes of Lincoln the President appeared in 1945 and the third in 1952. Lincoln and the South was published in 1946, and Lincoln the Liberal Statesman, in 1947. Randall’s greatest success as a teacher lay in his direction of graduate study. Over the years he attracted a large number of able and even brilliant students whose researches have brought into clearer focus many of the subsidiary phases of Lincoln’s work. Jim Randall is remembered at the University of Illinois for his unfailing kindness and gentleness and for his steady and unflinching devotion to the cause of exact scholarship.



The confiscation of property during the Civil War, by James Garfield Randall. Indianapolis: Mutual Printing and Lithographing Co., 1913.

Lincoln, the President. 4 vols. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1945-55; Reprint, Lincoln the president: Last full measure, by J.G. Randall and Richard N. Current. 1st Illinois pbk. ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Lincoln, the liberal statesman. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1947.

Constitutional problems under Lincoln. Rev. ed. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1951

The Civil War and reconstruction. Boston: Heath, 1953.

Lincoln and the South, by J. G. Randall. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980, 1946.