THOMAS L. PHILPOTT
Thomas Lee Philpottassociate professor of history,
fiery Catholic moralist and polemical leftist, and charismatic and much-honored
teacherended his life on October 9, 1991, in Austin, Texas, after
a yearlong illness. He was 49.
Professor Philpott was born on January 21, 1942, in
Chicago, Illinois, and attended St. Leo High School there. He received
a bachelor's degree in European history from Loyola University in 1963
and master's and doctoral degrees in American history from the University
of Chicago in 1963 and 1973.
Professor Philpott's principal research interest was
urban history. He knew the neighborhoods of his native Chicago well,
first as a newsboy, then as a bus driver. When he joined the UT Austin
faculty as an instructor in 1969, he wrote this on his biographical
data sheet: "Bus driver, Chicago Transit Authority, summers of 1963
and 1964, experience that was vivid and informative to the student of
During his years in graduate school he was a Woodrow
Wilson Fellow, National Institute of Mental Health Fellow, and Ford
Foundation Fellow. His revised PhD dissertation was published in 1978
by Oxford University Press as The Slum and the Ghetto: Neighborhood
Deterioration and Middle-Class Reform, Chicago, 1880-1930.
Colleagues said that from the time he joined the faculty,
he "immediately established a reputation he never lost as a dynamic,
controversial teacher, whose determination to inject himself and his
commitments into the shape and substance of his courses won him a yearly
following ofoften adoringundergraduate students." Between
1974 and 1980 he received the Amoco Foundation Outstanding Teaching
Award, College of Social and Behavioral Science Golden Apple Teaching
Excellence Award, and Presidential Teaching Excellence Award.
He consistently championed civil rights and spoke against
situations and conditions as diverse as the firing of a university president,
the arrest of student protesters, pederasty, and mindless patriotism.
When he realized in the spring of 1991 that he might
never teach again, Professor Philpott, who had served in the U.S. Army,
wrote his students a letter that said in part, referring to the Gulf
War, "I pray that you students, joined eventually and finally by the
faculty, will stop this war, make peace, and become the beloved community."
John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty
Biographical sketch prepared by Nancy Richey
and posted on the Faculty Council web site on December 4, 2000.
Additional biographical sources can be found in the UT Office
of Public Affairs, Office of the Executive Vice President and
Provost, and Barker Texas History Center; Standish Meacham and
Brian Levack, "Tom Philpott Remembered," Texas Observer, December
13, 1991, pp. 2122, and in the same issue, Scott Henson,
"Thomas the Believer," pp. 22-23.