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Columbia Missourian

Dr. Arvarh Strickland, July 6, 1930 — April 30, 2013, of Columbia

By Millard Family Funeral Home
May 2, 2013 | 1:08 p.m. CDT
Arvarh Strickland, MU's first African-American professor, is shown in a 1990 photograph.

Arvarh Strickland, born July 6, 1930 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, slipped into the bounds of eternity in the pre-dawn hours on April 30, 2013. He received his B.A. degree from Tougaloo College (1951), Tougaloo, Mississippi; the M.A. degree (1953), and PhD (1962) University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois.

Dr. Strickland, a historian, made history in 1969 when he became the first African American to hold a tenure-track position at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He served with distinction in various capacities as a faculty member and chair of the Department of History; principal architect of the MU Black Studies Program; associate vice president of academic affairs, University of Missouri System; and special assistant to the MU Chancellor.


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Included among the numerous awards recognizing his achievements are the MU Faculty-Alumni Award (1983), Thomas Jefferson Award (1985), Office of Equal Opportunity Award for Exemplary Service in enhancing the status of minorities at the University of Missouri (1985), Byler Distinguished Professor Award (1994), and the MU Distinguished Faculty Award (1995).

Arvarh E. Strickland, who authored and edited over a half dozen books and more than three dozen articles in referred journals, retired from MU in 1996, and his colleagues conferred the distinguished Professor Emeritus status upon him. He was a “good colleague” and always willing to expend social capital to foster the greater good for worthy causes. He will be remembered not only for significant contributions to the fields of American and African-American history but also for his stellar efforts to educate the MU community inside and outside of the classroom.

We celebrate his distinguished career at MU where a room in the Student Union received the name Arvarh E. Strickland in 1996, and persons at MU along with the university community, Strickland’s former students, and others helped to establish the Strickland Endowed Professorship in African American History and Black Studies in 1999. Perhaps the pinnacle of Arvarh’s career was designating the Arvarh E. Strickland Building in his honor (2007).

Aside from Dr. Strickland’s contributions to the University of Missouri, he contributed much to the historical profession as an active member of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society; and long time member of the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Southern Historical Association. In 2010, he received the John W. Blassingame Award from the Southern Historical Association for his role in mentoring students. Arvarh was a colleague among colleagues; a man among men. When he achieved, we achieved. He served his country as a member of the U. S. Army from 1953 to 1955 and was a founding member of Gamma Upsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and remained a faithful member of that august fraternity for sixty-four years. After making Columbia his home, Strickland worked with his close friend, Eliot Battle, to establish the Minority Men’s Connection, a group designed to foster meaningful involvement of black, white, and brown citizens in their lives and activities in the Columbia community.

Over the past three decades Dr. Strickland remained active in state and local organizations, including the State Historical Society, Boone County Historical Society, Kiwanis Club of Columbia, Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, Missouri Advisory Commission on Historic Preservation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. He remained a faithful member of the Missouri United Methodist Church until his passing.

Arvarh Strickland is survived by his wife, Willie Pearl, who became his bride as they completed their undergraduate studies at Tougaloo College. She was his faithful companion of more than fifty years and together they were blessed with two sons Duane (Hope) and Bruce (Stephanie) who bore them five granddaughters: Janea, Rachael (Andy) Gabriella; Marcella, and Mia. Three grandsons: Matthew, Stephan and Quincy; and one great granddaughter, Pearl Virginia. He will also be missed by a host of cousins, nieces, and nephews along with the many students the Stricklands “adopted” while they studied at University of Missouri.

Friends will be received from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday at Missouri United Methodist Church where services will follow at 11 a.m. Entombment will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Tougaloo College in care of the funeral home. Arrangements are under the direction of Millard Family Funeral Home, 12 E. Ash St., (573) 442-7112. Online condolences may be left for the family at