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Monday, May 21, 2012

In Memoriam: Thomas H. O'Connor, Dean of Boston History


Thomas H. O'Connor, one of Boston's most influential and perceptive historians, died Sunday, May 20, 2012 at his home in Milton, according to a story in The Boston Globe.  He was 89.

Born and raised in South Boston, O'Connor attended Gate of Heaven School, went to Boston Latin, then got degrees in history from Boston College, and his doctorate from Boston University.  He worked at the Boston Public Library before teaching at Boston College.

Professor Emeritus and University Historian at Boston College, O'Connor wrote 20 books and hundreds of scholarly papers on various aspects of Boston, New England and American history.  His book, Bibles, Brahmins and Bosses, published in 1976, opened up a treasure trove of untapped topics, which his subsequent books delved into, including: Fitzpatrick's Boston (1984); South Boston: My Home Town (1988); The Boston Irish: A Political History (1995); Boston Catholics (1998).

O'Connor also wrote extensively about the American Civil War, starting with an influential series of pamphlets entitled The Call to Arms: Massachusetts in the Civil War (1960): followed by books,  Lords of the Loom: Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War (1968); The Disunited States: The US in the Era of Civil War and Reconstruction (1972); and Civil War Boston: Homefront and Battlefield (1997).

Professor O'Connor was also a gifted chronicler of local celebrations and milestones, such as the 1976 Bi-Centennial Celebrations in Boston; and the Boston Irish Famine Memorial project in 1998.  The Eire Society of Boston gave O'Connor its prestigious Gold Medal Award in 1999.

He was also a generous colleague who read dozens of book manuscripts, always with encouragement and sage advice.  He was beloved by his students, colleagues, and by the Boston Irish community at large.

Rest in Peace, Professor O'Connor. 
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