Henry S. Bausum (1924-2019)

Henry S. Bausum, historian, professor, and journal editor, died on January 5, 2019, at his home in Beloit, Wisconsin. He was 94 years old. His death followed several months of declining health and occurred a few weeks shy of a much-anticipated 95th birthday.

Dr. Bausum’s pathway to academe sprung from unlikely roots. His parents, Frederic William and Florence Burke Hillborn, had received only modest educations. His father’s schooling on the South Dakota prairies ended after fourth grade, and his mother left school in Bristol, Pennsylvania, after the eighth grade. Their second of five children and the eldest of two sons was born in Winchester Station, Maryland, on February 19, 1924. He was named Henry Stover after his father’s father and his mother’s brother and started life during the prosperous Roaring Twenties.

During those years his father helped to build the country’s highway infrastructure on the Eastern seaboard by hauling pilings and timber. This profitable business collapsed after the Great Depression, forcing the family to relocate in 1934 from a comfortable home in Winchester north of Annapolis to a rustic farm on the opposite side of the city. This move transformed the eldest son at age ten into an indispensable farm hand, gathering eggs, milking cows, and, by age twelve, driving the farm tractor.

The youth nonetheless completed high school in Annapolis. Following brief employment making B-26 bombers for Glenn L. Martin Aircraft and further farm work, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age 18 on December 12, 1942. His ambition to become a pilot was derailed by family medical history, and he trained instead as a tail gunner for the 325th Bombardment Squadron of the 92nd Heavy Bombardment Group. His flight crew reached the European theater in late September 1944. Soon after, his sensitivity to high-altitude flying grounded the young airman, and he served with squadron operations until the end of the war. He was discharged with the rank of sergeant on December 22, 1945.

Dr. Bausum credited the G.I. Bill for his transformation from farmer to professor. He enrolled in the University of Maryland two months after leaving military service, quickly changing his field of study from agriculture to history. Later that year he met Dolores Brister of Pineville, Louisiana, with whom he would share a seventy-one-year marriage. The pair met during summer employment at Ridgecrest, a Christian retreat center near Ashville, North Carolina. He always said she was the prettiest girl there, and she credited his sparkling blue eyes with winning her heart. The two were married the following summer in Pineville on June 7, 1947.

The new couple moved to Washington, D.C., for the continuation of his studies, and the University of Maryland awarded his bachelor’s degree in 1949. Fifteen years later, in 1964, he earned his doctorate in history from the University of Chicago. In between he studied for a year at Andover-Newton Theological School and gained a master’s in history from Boston University.

The many years of schooling were interspersed with breaks for employment and the birth of two children, a son, David Rees, born in 1948, and a daughter, Ann Sharon, born nine years later. Having begun his academic teaching career in Tennessee at Carson-Newman College, Dr. Bausum joined the faculty of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington in 1964 after receiving his Ph.D. He taught history there for the next twenty-five years, including five as chair of the History Department.

During his career at VMI he played an instrumental role through the American Historical Association (AHA) by introducing innovations in classroom instruction as the co-editor with Myron Marty of an influential AHA newsletter column, Teaching History Today. Concurrently Dr. Bausum developed a program at VMI known as the John Biggs Cincinnati Lectures in Military Leadership and Command. This series brought prominent military historians to campus for cadets to meet and hear.

His experience editing annual collections of the lectures prompted him to undertake further editorial work after he retired from teaching in 1989. For the next ten years he edited a scholarly quarterly, the Journal of Military History, from an editorial office based at the George C. Marshall Library on the VMI campus. In addition, from 1991 to 1993 he served as editor-in-chief of Air Power History magazine, the quarterly journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation. During the 1990s he brought the management and production of both journals into the computer age, drawing on the expertise of his son, a math Ph.D.

Dr. Bausum and his wife developed lifelong pleasures in gardening, reading, music, and travel. In the span of forty-six years they traveled abroad twenty-five times, principally to Europe but also to China—shortly after the country reopened to Westerners—and to India. Their hillside gardens at Tankersley Tavern, a nineteenth-century toll house on the National Register of Historic Places, were evidence of their ingenuity, eye for beauty, and dedication to hard work.

The Bausums brought these same talents to their new home in Beloit, Wisconsin, when they moved there in 2000 to be nearer their daughter and her family. They remained active well into a period they perennially referred to as late middle age, taking their last international trip at ages eighty-six and eighty-two. Until last summer, Dr. Bausum was still clearing his own snow, pulling weeds, and mowing his lawn. A series of strokes and failing memory forced the curtailment of his full independence, but even to his final days he was quick to dance a jig, eager to spin a zinging pun, and unfailingly devoted to his wife.

He is survived by Dolores, their children David (Mary) and Ann, grandsons Sam and Jake, step-grandson Andrew (Suzanne), step-granddaughter Siona, and his younger sister Mary Catherine. Memorial gifts may be made in the name of Henry S. Bausum to the Development Office, American Historical Association, 400 A St. SE, Washington, DC 20003 or online at https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/donate.

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