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In Memoriam: Leonard P. Curry

Tracy E. K’Meyer, January 2014

Courtesy of the Department of History, University of Louisville1929–­2013

Historian of Antebellum and Urban America

Leonard P. Curry, a seasoned professor and scholar of US antebellum and urban history, died on August 31, 2013, at the age of 84.

Curry was a native of Cave City, Kentucky. After receiving his BA in 1951 from Western Kentucky State College (now Western Kentucky University), he served two years in the United States Air Force as a second lieutenant. He then returned to the commonwealth and earned his PhD in history from the University of Kentucky in 1961. Professor Curry started his academic career at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), where he taught from 1958 to 1962 before moving to the history department at the University of Louisville; he spent the remainder of his career there, aside from visiting professorships at the University of Maine (1964–­65) and the University of Maryland, College Park (1968–­69). During his time at the University of Louisville, Curry rose through the academic ranks and served as chair of the Department of History from 1983 to 1986, earning the Excellence in Administration award for his accomplishments in the post. Professor Curry retired in 1999.

Professor Curry’s major published works were significant contributions to the history of the United States; they include Blueprint for Modern America: Non-­Military Legislation of the First Civil War Congress (1968) and Rail Routes South: Louisville’s Fight for the Southern Market, 1865–­1872 (1969). In 1981 the University of Chicago published Curry’s best-­known book, The Free Black in Urban America, 1800–­1850. His last book was The Corporate City: The American City as a Political Entity, 1800–­1850, published in 1997. In addition to his books, Curry contributed numerous articles and reviews to the leading journals in his field, including the American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, The Journal of Southern History, The Journal of Urban History, and Civil War History.

At the University of Louisville, Professor Curry was the ideal departmental citizen. He served on numerous committees for the university and for professional organizations, in particular for the Southern Historical Association. At the University of Louisville, Curry helped found the PhD program in urban and public affairs, and taught the program’s required urban history course for years. In 40 years of teaching he inspired several generations of students to expand the rich tapestry of the United States’ past. Professor Curry’s colleagues will always remember him for his courtesy, good humor, and intellectual curiosity.

—Tracy E. K’Meyer
University of Louisville