Saturday, August 11, 2012

#223 / Brewster

I didn't know Brewster Smith well, but I did know him, and I am proud to be able to say that.

Brewster Smith was a terrific person, and he was active in community politics in Santa Cruz County back when I was an elected member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. He was among the relatively small number of University of California at Santa Cruz faculty members who did get involved in community affairs. Not all did, by any means. UCSC isn't called the "City on a Hill" for nothing.

Brewster Smith died on Saturday, August 4th this year, at the age of 93. The Santa Cruz Sentinel published an obituary that outlines some of what Brewster Smith accomplished, and this obituary particularly notes his role as an expert witness in the court proceedings that ultimately led to the famous Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared school segregation to be unconstitutional.

Most recently, I found that Brewster Smith had inspired someone who has worked on the problems of the authoritarian personality in politics. Professor Bob Altemeyer, now retired, was an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Manitoba, located in Winnipeg, Canada. Professor Altemeyer responded to my recent discussion of Ponerology, to speak up about the seriousness of the subject. He convinced me that "ponerology," which I had only recently heard about, is in fact something to take seriously. In his own book, The Authoritarians, available online in a PDF version (just click right here), Dr. Altemeyer identifies Brewster Smith as his "mentor," something that encouraged me to read Dr. Altemeyer's book. It is a book well worth reading, by the way.

Thank you, Brewster Smith!

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