William F. Zornow (1920-2003)
Raymond J. Jirran, April 2004
William F. “Bill” Zornow, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 13, 1920. Zornow was vice president of Glenville Coal & Supply Company, Real Value Coal Co., and Zornow Coal Co. from 1940 to 1945. He was deputy clerk of probate court in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, from 1941 to 1943. From 1943 to 1946, he worked as production planning engineer for Hickok Electrical Instrument Company in Cleveland, Ohio. While working at Hickok Electrical, Zornow received AB and MA degrees in 1942 and 1944, respectively, from Western Reserve University.
Zornow first taught for three years at the University of Akron as an instructor in history. From there he went back to Western Reserve University to teach another three years from 1947 to 1950. In 1950–51, he taught at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, and then went on to Kansas State University, Manhattan, serving as an assistant professor of history and general studies from 1951 to 1958. In 1952, while at Kansas State, he received his doctorate from Western Reserve. In 1958 he came to Kent State University, where he taught until 1990 when he retired with emeritus status.
Beginning in 1961, Zornow directed my 1972 Kent State University doctoral dissertation, “Cleveland and the Negro Following World War II.” My dissertation may have been the only one he ever directed, and my gratitude to Zornow is everlasting. He patiently listened to why I was not writing what would be politically correct. It remains politically incorrect to claim that the American Dream and the American Dilemma are really but two different ways of regarding the same reality. In the process of trying to tell the truth as I saw it, I got to keep my own soul, and then teach what I had learned with gladness. Zornow’s presence is missed by my wife, Bette, and myself much more than we had ever anticipated.
Zornow had a love affair with United States history, and was one of the most, if not the most, prolific writers at Kent State University. He is known for many books and articles, and is cited 63 times in the Dialog Biography Master Index. Several of his books included Lincoln and the Party Divided, The Many Faces of Lincoln, and Kansas: A History of the Jayhawkers State. The Jayhawkers State received an award of merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 1958. Zornow also wrote more than six hundred abstracts to America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts.
Zornow belonged to many scholarly associations, including a 50-year membership in the American Historical Association. He died December 17, 2003.
—Raymond J. Jirran
Thomas Nelson Community College (Retired)
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