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7

On my friend, Professor Richard C. Wade

March 17, 2009 at 4:24 am

Richard C. Wade is credited with inventing urban history as a feld of American history. He taught at the University of Rochester in the 1950s, at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, and became—along with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.—one of two Distinguished Professors of History at the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1971. He died last July. I delivered this eulogy to Dick to a small group of historians who were in New York for a convention in early January. These were the people in his feld, some of whom hadn’t met him; they just knew him as a titan in his feld. Many knew nothing, or very litle, about what you’ll read in my eulogy. I found that stunning.

But when I bumped into PBS pundit Mark Shields at the newsstand on Sunday morning and asked him, “Did you know my friend Pro-fessor Wade?”, Shields lit up and said “yes, wonderful man.” I think if you could ask George McGovern, Ted Kennedy, Hugh Carey, and Mario Cuomo, among those still alive, they’d tell you the same thing. St. Patrick’s Day is the right day to do this post.

I met Professor Wade in August 1968 at the Democratic convention in Chicago. George McGovern had become the replacement candidate for Robert Kennedy, who had been assassinated in June. McGovern had three heavyweight political operatives working for him there. I was working as an assistant to Pierre Salinger; of course everybody knew Frank Mankiewicz, who had been Bobby Kennedy’s press secre-tary. And then I met Dick Wade, at the time a Housing Commissioner in Chicago under Mayor Daley and a historian on the faculty of the University of Chcago.

In March of 1971, the 1972 McGovern campaign kicked of with a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline: “I’m tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” And one of the four signers of the ad was Professor Wade, who had just become a Distinguished Professor at City University Graduate Center in NY. I went to work as a volunteer on that campaign and began a friendship with Dick Wade that was one of the most important in my life until his passing last summer.

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