Indiana University Bloomington


(Aug. 6, 1940 - Nov. 18,1996)

Professor Paul R. Lucas, Professor of History at Indiana University, was born in Madrid, Iowa on August 6, 1940. An eminent historian of U.S. colonial history and an outstanding teacher who had been at Indiana for nearly 30 years, he died on November 18,1996.

Growing up in a small Iowa town, Lucas noticed at an early age the importance of religion in his surroundings. Madrid was divided into many denominations, each enclosing its own circle of people. And these divisions not only separated people in their Sunday worship, they also determined political affiliation. The Catholics were marginalized, their church relegated to the outskirts of town. The town fathers even refused to use city funds to provide the church with a road. With great gusto, Lucas would tell of his early realization that religion mattered. It was central to the lives of Americans.

After graduating from Simpson College in 1962, Lucas attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota, receiving the Ph.D. in 1970. He specialized in the study of American colonial history, an era in which religious matters were at the forefront on public concern. Lucas came to Indiana University in 1967 as a lecturer; by 1985 he had reached the rank of professor.

Lucas'first book, Valley of Discord: Church and Society Along the Connecticut River, 1636-1725 (University Press of New England, 1976), took issue with the myth of a puritan society united in faith, and revealed the powerful divisions and rivalries besetting the early settlers. In this book, and in subsequent articles published in major journals, Lucas also examined the thought of such important religious leaders and thinkers as Solomon Stoddard and Jonathan Edwards. Lucas had a close understanding of their world; they were not disembodied, abstract "talking heads," l?ut flesh and blood human beings. The Lucas family named its first dog in Bloomington, Edwards. In his classes on the Puritans, Lucas would dress up in Puritan costume, impersonating Edwards, and read to the class one of the divine's sermons, promising damnation, fire and brimstone to his congregation.

Lucas' second book, American Odyssey, 1607-1789 (Prentice-Hall, 1984), was an interpretive essay examining how Americans had developed their view of themselves as a unique people. Lucas stressed the particular importance of religion in developing this identity. Widely used in courses on early American history, the book was to be revised for a new edition at the time of Lucas' death. His work as a scholar was cut short just as he was launched on an ambitious new set of projects. His intent was to write in the next few years a biography of Solomon Stoddard and a book on religion and society in early America. These works would have been the crowning achievement of his scholarly career.

Lucas' broad intellectual interests and fair-mindedness made him an ideal scholarly editor. He served as associate, acting and interim editors of the two major history journals in the profession, the American Historical Review and the Journal of American History-both located on the Bloomington campus.

A consummate teacher, Lucas attracted a large following on the campus. He taught the survey in U.S. history, American colonial history, the history of Canada, graduate seminars and colloquia. In his large classes he brought to life the characters he taught about In his survey course, he came to class in a stove pipe hat that Abraham Lincoln might have worn, and read to the students and analyzed the Gettysburg address. He took great interest in individual students. When one of them said he wanted to be a museum curator, Lucas found the student an internship. That person went on to a successful career in the field, currently as curator of a Kansas museum.

Lucas selflessly helped graduate students. He found ways of inspiring them to maximize their potential, and in their subsequent careers they have fulfilled the faith he had in them. He also forged close and personal ties with the people who studied under him. His home became a meeting place on Saturday evenings for informal suppers and talk late into the night. In the 1970s, when graduate students in the History Department formed a softball team they called "Clio's Kids," Lucas almost as a matter of course was the first faculty member to join them, as player and in the beer sessions afterward. Indeed, he became the ace pitcher on the team and shared in the delight as they regularly beat their arch rivals from the English Department.

Another area for his continuous interaction with students was as faculty adviser of Phi Theta Alpha, the history honors society. Moribund when Lucas took it over, the society flourished under his stewardship. It now meets regularly, hearing and discussing learned papers and recently hosted a highly successful conference with excellent papers from both graduate and undergraduate students.

A deeply concerned member of the university community, Lucas served it in many capacities. He was, among other assignments, co-chair of the Faculty Grievance Committee; on the faculty advisory committees of the Indiana University Press, the Oral History Research Center and the American Studies Program; and a member of the Library Committee of the Faculty Council. What fascinated him in these appointments, we suspect, was the multitude of personalities he encountered. He enjoyed conversing with his colleagues and observing their many different responses to the issues of the day. When Lucas spoke, he did so with great verve, and it was always a pleasure to hear his well crafted sentences, filled with a certain self-deprecatory humor and irony.

If committees were necessary for the governance of our university, he also knew there were more important things to do than sit on committees. Growing up in a small town, Lucas was particularly appreciative of his community and selflessly gave to it. He was a long-time member of the Bloomington Rotary Club, serving as its president in 1995. He was a member of the Board of the Monroe County Historical Museum. He spearheaded an effort to publish a multiauthored history of Monroe County. He gave numerous speeches to local groups on the history of our region. Audiences were particularly enthralled and amused by his talk on the building of Lake Monroe. Its siting was evidently influenced by the desire to disperse gangs of malefactors in the Clear Creek hollows who used to go on marauding expeditions to Bloomington.

Lucas's love for his community and innate curiosity about people led him to know a large number of individuals from all walks of life. Probably no one more successfully spanned the divide between town and gown than Lucas. Among his friends were the attendant at the Von Lee theatre, a retired engineer from Sarkes Tarzian, his minister and a news broadcaster on WFIU.

Lucas' many accomplishments and contributions to the university community and the community he lived in have left a large, irreplaceable void. We all miss him terribly.

May it be resolved that a copy of this resolution be sent to his wife, Judy Lucas; his daughter, Rebecca Lucas; and his son, Rob Lucas, all of Bloomington.

William B. Cohen
George Juergens

This Resolution was passed by the Bloomington Faculty Council in April of 1997.