When J. Blaine Hudson became dean of the University of Louisville’s College of Arts and Sciences eight years ago, it was significant. He was leading a school he had not only attended, but had years ago protested because of the lack of opportunities for African-American students.
Hudson died Saturday at age 63, but his colleagues are remembering him now for the opportunities he created and the lives he changed in his decades as an educator and activist.
Hudson’s activism in junior high school after he was denied entry into a movie theater.
“His activism made room for a professor like me who thinks the community I live in and I’m a part of also needs to benefit and learn from and know about themselves,”says Kaila Story, an assistant professor in the Pan-African Studies Department, which Hudson chaired from 1998 to 2003
“Blaine in many ways set the foundation, particularly in the south…the things that Blaine was doing, that he did in his youth through his activism, his scholarship, his teaching, he made people take the study of African-Americans seriously.”
Hudson became acting dean of U of L’s College of Arts and Sciences in March 2004 and was named to the post permanently in May 2005. He also served as the chair of the department of Pan-African studies. Recently, he led the mayor’s violence prevention task force, but stepped down from that and later the dean’s office due to a cranial surgery.
“He was everywhere,” Story says. “And it wasn’t just that he was everywhere on campus at events. He was everywhere in the community. Any type of community engagement that had to do with African Americans, anti-violence, African-American history especially … he would be there. He is going to be greatly missed, he was a giant of a man.”
Story says educators with a history in activism are essential in universities, especially in departments that teach the history of traditionally excluded groups.
“It shows them there’s a possibility they can do the same thing,” she says. “They can be just as active in their respective communities through whatever vehicle, whether it be through art, whether it be through protest, whether it be through protest. Once I started reading about all the things that African Americans have done in this country, I started thinking about myself in a totally different way. That goes for the things I’ve read about women, the things I read about LGBT people.”
Story is also the host of WFPL’s Strange Fruit podcast. This week’s episode of the show will feature further discussion of Hudson’s life and legacy.
Condolences can be sent to Hudson’s family at 4255 Northwestern Parkway, Louisville, Ky. 40212.