In Memorium

This page serves to memorialize those that have left us

Remembering Dr. Robert C. Smith

It is with deep sadness and grief that we announce that Dr. Robert C. Smith, a multi-honored alumnus of the Department of Political Science, made his transition on April 13, 2023. His ties to Howard University were numerous and expanded for decades. He received his Ph.D. from the department in 1976 and taught in the department between 1980 and 1988. He later built a long and successful career as a professor and scholar at San Francisco State University from 1989 to 2018, when he retired with Emeritus Professor status.

A beloved scholar, prolific writer, energetic teacher, committed mentor, devoted husband, and loving father, he embodied the best that Howard has to offer. He received two important and well-deserved awards from Howard. In 1998, he received Howard University’s “Distinguished Ph.D. Alumni Award.” In 2017, along with Dr. Paula McCain (Duke University), he was the recipient of the Political Science Department’s “Distinguished Graduate Award.”

Dr. Smith was a towering scholar in the fields of Black Politics and American Government. His contributions to the Black Politics field and body of literature are immeasurable. His works are taught (or should be) in virtually all university level courses on African American politics, and were critical in the defining of the field itself.  

He published about 20 single-authored and co-authored books and countless scholarly articles. His books included Conservatism and Racism and Why in America They are the Same; Encyclopedia of African-American Politics; Hanes Walton, Jr.: Architect of the Black Science of Politics; John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and the Politics of Ethnic Incorporation and Avoidance; Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era: Now You See It, Now You Don’t; Ronald Walters and the Fight for Black Power, 1969-2010; We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era; and many others.

He often collaborated with other scholars including current and former Howard political scientists Dr. Richard Seltzer and the late Dr. Ron Walters respectfully. He felt an urgent need to work with other academics and students as he built a legacy of remarkable scholarship. His mentorship of students is legendary, and many have gone on to outstanding careers in academia and beyond.

Dr. Smith was a key leader, activist, and participant in the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, the main professional organization for black political scientists. He led and worked on task forces and committees, chaired panels and gave presentations at NCOBPS conferences, was Associate Editor of the NCOBPS journal, National Political Science Review, from 1996-2011; and a member of NCOBPS Executive Council (1989-1992). Most important, his presence at the annual conferences provided a gravitas and experience that he generously shared to young and seasoned scholars alike.

Dr. Smith was born in Benton, Louisiana on February 12, 1947, a beginning in the deep-segregated South that he reflected on in his work From the Bayou to the Bay: The Autobiography of a Black Liberation Scholar. He later moved to California. He received a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970; and an MA in Political Science from UCLA in 1972.

We send our condolences and best wishes to his wife Scotty Gibson Smith and their children and grandchildren.

Remembering Dr. Mae King

Dr. Mae C. King, Professor Emerita of Political Science at Howard University, died November 4, 2022. She was the first African American Senior Staff Associate of the American Political Science Association.

Dr. Mae King "paved the way for a generation of Black political scientists generally, and Black female political scientists particularly", Sherri L. Wallace et al. wrote and that she "has made a significant contribution to the modern Black Liberation Movement, and to other fields of study, including African studies, Black studies, and Black women's studies. King’s article, “Oppression and Power: The Unique Status of the Black Woman in the American Political System,” (Social Science Quarterly, 1975) is one of the classics in field of political science and widely anthologized.

King is the namesake for an award given by the Association for the Study of Black Women in Politics. Each year, the Mae C. King Distinguished Paper Award on Women, Gender, and Black Politics recognizes "the best paper presented by a political scientist on women, gender and Black Politics at a national or regional Political Science conference in the past academic year".

Her pioneering spirit and guidance led her, in 1970, to work with other African American political scientists including, Dr. Jewel Prestage, to found the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

Dr. King was a former President of the International Association of Black Professionals in International Affairs and VicePresident of the African Heritage Studies Association.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, she was trained by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in nonviolent direct action. King fought in the civil rights movement, while a student at Bishop College, Marshall, Texas. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Idaho in 1968.

King is widely known in political science academic circles, both in the US and internationally, for her extensive research and teaching in the areas of African foreign policy and development, and Nigerian local government. In addition to teaching Political Science at Howard University, she taught political science for fourteen years while an Associate Professor at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria, and served as a Visiting Scholar at The Johns Hopkins University’s School of International Studies. Early in her career, she was on the faculty of Texas Southern University. Dr. King has published many articles in scholarly journals. Her seminal works include Localism and Nation Building (Spectrum Books, 1988), and Basic Currents of Nigerian Foreign Policy (Howard University Press, 1996).

She will be mourned by family, friends, colleagues, and many students, both in the United States and in Nigeria.

Remembering Dr. Alicia Petersen

Dr Alicia Petersen taught in Political Science for over a decade. She helped create the Community Development program prior to her retirement in 2016. Her passion for students, community outreach, and civil service also led her to be involved in political advising, serving as a special assistant to Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. 

Obituary for Dr Alicia Petersen and other Howard members

Remembering Mrs. Saphronia Drake

It is with profound and great sadness that we note the passing of Mrs. Saphronia Drake on Saturday, January 30, 2021. For more than two decades, with boundless generosity, an engaging sense of humor, acute professionalism, and an unparalleled commitment and dedication to students, she served as the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Department of Political Science, the Graduate Program Administrator, and as the Administrative Assistant to the Chair.

Mrs. Drake began her service in the Department of Political Science in 1995. Her ability to master tasks with efficiency and precision became legendary.

Mrs. Saphronia Drake was a rare gem, a personification of motherly love and humanity.  She worked assiduously to foster the vision and mission of the Department of Political Science, especially in so far as the students are concerned. She managed to maintain the responsibilities of the Department in lean and difficult times of unprecedented departmental changes, doing so with unflappable resilience and dignity.