Scholar and Activist Professor Otis Graham Remembered

Published on March 11th, 2018

One of the nation's most prominent historians and early leaders of the immigration reform movement has died. In early November 2017, sad news emerged from the southern California coast that University of California–Santa Barbara (UCSB) emeritus professor of history Dr. Otis L. Graham, Jr., had died at the age of 82 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Graham helped provided the intellectual framework for the role environmentalism played in the modern immigration reform movement.  An accomplished author, his works included, Unguarded Gates: A History of America’s Immigration Crisis (2004) and Immigration Reform and America’s Unchosen Future (2008), and Presidents and the American Environment (2015). 

Otis was recently recognized in a fitting tribute by renowned environmental scientist, Leon Kolankiewicz, in The Social Contract Press. 


Back in 1999, I had begun assisting Numbers USA founder Roy Beck with his first draft of a scholarly paper for a special issue of the academic Journal of Policy History dedicated to “Environmental Politics and Policy, 1960s–1990s,” slated to be published in the year 2000. Otis, with his particular expertise as an environmental historian, was the invited guest editor of this special issue. Roy was impressed enough with my footnoting, edits, and overall contributions to his initial draft that he asked Otis if I could be listed as his coauthor rather than just acknowledged as an assistant in an endnote. And Otis made it happen, even though this apparently was contrary to the journal’s typical practice or standards. Our joint paper, “The Environmental Movement’s Retreat from Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization (1970-1998): A First Draft of History,” was indeed the only one in the special issue with two authors. It has since been cited and linked to online many times over the last two decades. I am forever grateful for Otis’ pivotal role in making this possible.

You can read the full tribute from a The Social Contract Press Winter 2018 newsletter here

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