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Monday, January 07, 2013


J. Blaine Hudson career highlights

• Earned doctorate from University of Kentucky in 1981.
• Started working at University of Louisville in 1974 and joined its department of Pan-African Studies in 1998.
• Directed department’s Pan-African Studies Institute for Teachers and served as department chair and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before being appointed college dean in 2004.
• Published numerous articles and book chapters on African-American history and two books on the Underground Railroad.
• Chaired Kentucky African American Heritage Commission and Kentucky State Advisory Committee to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
• Recipient of 2002 Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Award.
• Co-author, with Mervin Aubespin and Kenneth Clay, of “Two Centuries of Black
Louisville: A Photographic History,” 2011.

J. Blaine Hudson, who once occupied the dean’s office at the University of Louisville’s College of Arts and Sciences as a student protester and later led the college as dean for more than eight years, died Saturday, according to the school and A.D. Porter & Sons Funeral Home. He was 63.

During his career, Hudson chronicled the history of African Americans in Louisville, served on boards and commissions across the state and worked to solve the problem of gun violence in Louisville.

“He has been an intellectual jewel,” Merv Aubespin, a longtime friend of Hudson who co-authored a book on black history in Louisville with him, said in an interview Friday.

He said Hudson’s work was groundbreaking. “The areas that he studied, as far as African-American history, hadn’t been studied that much before he did,” Aubespin said.

Hudson, who was named acting dean in 2004 and was appointed to the post full time the following year, took a leave of absence in August, telling colleagues in an email that he had serious health problems and had undergone “cranial surgery.”

At the time, he said, “Prognosis is good; all marbles are still there.”

Hudson, however, stopped taking visitors and phone calls and communicated infrequently by email after that. The exact nature and severity of his illness remained a mystery to even his close friends.

The university announced last month that Hudson would step down as dean at the end of December.

John P. Ferré, an associate dean for faculty affairs, has been acting dean.

“Blaine has been a mentor to me, a dyed-in-the-wool historian who cared for the advancement of social justice and the arts and sciences,” Ferré said in a statement.

“Social justice and arts and sciences, of course, were much the same in his mind. Everyone — no matter what color, gender, sexual orientation, or political leaning — counted equally for Blaine. I loved that about him,” Ferré said.

On Saturday night, U of L spokesman Mark Hebert confirmed Hudson’s death and university President James Ramsey issued a statement recalling Hudson’s accomplishments.

“Blaine’s many years and contributions as a faculty member, department chair and dean has had, and will continue to have, a lasting impact on generations of U of L students,” he said.

“Blaine was a visionary and leader in the academy and the community. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Ramsey said.

Raoul Cunningham, a civil rights activist, said Hudson had a huge impact on Louisville, starting with his time as an activist on campus in the 1960s and leading up to his time leading the College of Arts and Sciences.

In 1969, Hudson was arrested and expelled after occupying the same dean’s office he would later hold. He and other protesters demanded more black faculty, African-American representation on the board of trustees and the creation of a Pan-African Studies Department.

He was later allowed to re-enroll but lost credits for the semester in which he was expelled.

“As a member of the faculty and more specifically as dean, he had an impact on not only the university but the community as a whole,” Cunningham said.

Hudson taught history and Pan-African studies classes for years while holding various administrative posts. He was Pan-African Studies Department chairman from 1998 to 2003 and was an associate dean from 1999 to 2004.

Hudson, a lifelong Louisville resident, received his doctorate in higher education administration at the University of Kentucky and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from U of L.

Hudson was active in the community, working to teach others outside the university setting about black history and working to combat violence in western Louisville.

Mayor Greg Fischer said in an interview he chose Hudson earlier this year to chair his Louisville Violence Prevention Work Group because he knew the city and racial dynamics that often play into the violence.

“He came of age in the time of (the Rev.) Martin Luther King Jr. He not only studied the history, he lived the history as well,” Fischer said.

He called Hudson “a Renaissance man.”

Hudson has been chair of the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission and founded a program called the Saturday Academy, an enrichment program to teach people about African-American history and world history from an African-American perspective.

He led the effort to create a “Freedom Park” on U of L’s campus in an effort to counterbalance the Confederate statue erected near the campus in 1895.

“He leaves an incredible legacy of activism, teaching, scholarship, community service, leadership and integrity on and off the University of Louisville campus in many capacities,” Hudson’s family said in the obituary.

Hudson’s publications include the 2011 book “Two Centuries of Black Louisville: A Photographic History,” with Kenneth Clay and Aubespin, a retired Courier-Journal associate editor.

Aubespin said that he and Clay began work on the book five years before it was published and found themselves relying so much on Hudson and his knowledge that a year into their work on it, they asked him to be a co-author.

“We were driving him nuts,” Aubespin said. “One day, I suggested to him ... that he join us. He said, ‘I’d be delighted.’ ”

The obituary said only that “the family will gather to commemorate his love” but gives no information about a funeral or memorial service.

It asks that expressions of sympathy be made with contributions to U of L’s Pan African Studies Department.

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