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J.H. Hexter

J.H. "Jack" Hexter, the Charles J. Stille Professor Emeritus of History, died at his home in St. Louis, Missouri, on Dec. 8. He was 86 years old.

During his 60-year career, Professor Hexter launched a major scholarly effort to chronicle the history of modern freedom. At Yale, where he taught 1964-78, he developed and directed the Center for Parliamentary History. Before coming to Yale, he taught and conducted research at Queens College 1939-57 and Washington University in St. Louis 1957-64, where he returned upon his retirement from Yale. He remained active in his field until shortly before his death.

His numerous books include "The Reign of King Pym," "The Vision of Politics on the Eve of the Reformation," "Reappraisals in History" and "Doing History." He was coeditor of "The Complete Works of Sir Thomas More" and general editor of "The Traditions of the Western World."

"He was one of the world's top historians," says Donald Kagan, the Hillhouse Professor of History and Classics. "Jack made a major difference in our understanding of early modern Europe, especially Tudor and Stuart England. He was a major figure on the subject of the writing of history -- historiography -- and the philosophical basis of history."

Howard Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History and former Yale president, remembers Professor Hexter as "a very colorful figure who could be terribly direct with people. He was an absolutely fearless and exhaustive researcher, a believer in the free and open academic process, and a very social person who really enjoyed the intellectual life at Yale." Off campus, Professor Lamar recalls, "Jack's great hobby was cooking. He was happy preparing gourmet meals for his colleagues."

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Professor Hexter earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. His awards and honors included four Guggenheim Fellowships, two Fulbright Fellowships, and several honorary degrees.

He was a long-time member of the Royal Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He served on the editorial boards of several important academic journals of British history, was president of the Conference of British Studies, and served on the board of trustees of the Danforth Foundation.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth; two sons, Christopher and Richard; two daughters, Anne Green and Eleanor Stevens; and 14 grandchildren.

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