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News Release

For immediate use

Dec. 4, 2006 -- No. 579

Local angle: Greenville, S.C.

Photo: To download a photo, see end of story.

Southern historian Tindall
dies in Chapel Hill at 85

CHAPEL HILL - Southern historian Dr. George Brown Tindall, Kenan professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who is remembered as an early advocate of equality for black Americans, died Saturday (Dec. 2) in Chapel Hill. He was 85.

On the UNC history faculty from 1958 until he retired in 1990, Tindall also pioneered the discussion of Southern myths, which he said white Southerners developed after the Civil War to explain how what they saw as a just and noble cause could have been lost.

A native of Greenville, S.C., he was president of the Southern Historical Association in 1973. Tindall's first book, "South Carolina Negroes, 1877-1900," was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 1952. He converted his exhaustive research of primary sources into this readable account of segregation and the methodical disfranchisement of blacks into a state of economic dependency.

His books also include "America: A Narrative History" (W.W. Norton, 1984, 1988) and "Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945" (1967), a volume of the series "A History of the South" from Louisiana State University Press. "Emergence" was honored by the press, the North Carolina Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Southern Regional Council and the Southern Historical Association.

Tindall was a major editor and contributor to the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, an eight-pound, 1,656-page tome by 800 experts on the region that UNC Press published in 1989 and recently updated.

The volume's co-editor, Dr. William Ferris, is a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a UNC history professor and senior associate director of the university's Center for the Study of the American South. He called Tindall a giant among Southern scholars.

"He was a great teacher and a great scholar, and his legacy as a Southern historian is outstanding," Ferris said. "His scholarship was extraordinary, but his personal warmth and generosity also were beyond measure."

Tindall also pioneered the study of diversity in the South beyond black and white, to the recognition of Irish, Jewish, Scottish and other heritages represented in the region, he said.

Even in recent years, Tindall attended weekly luncheon discussions on the UNC campus by Southern studies experts, where "George was sort of the chairman of the board," Ferris said. And until recent years, Tindall could be seen riding his bicycle to class.

Tindall's son, Bruce Tindall, a lecturer at the University of California, San Diego, said his parents sent him to what likely was the first integrated day-care center in Chapel Hill, and that his father stood fast for human rights and civil rights through his academic career and support of like-minded political candidates.

He remembered his father organizing a meeting of historians in the 1950s for which he struggled with hotels to find a place that black scholars and white could sit down to dinner together.

George Tindall began his academic life with a bachelor's degree in English from Furman University in his hometown of Greenville, S.C. He then fought in the Pacific theater of World War II with the U.S. Army Air Force, rising from the rank of private to second lieutenant, from 1942-46.

He completed master's and doctoral degrees in history at UNC, then taught at several other universities before returning to Carolina in 1958.
In 1991, some of Tindall's former students wrote essays in his honor, which LSU Press published as the collection "The Adaptable South." He advised 26 doctoral candidates and other students at UNC, many of whom now are history teachers and professors across the country.

"In the fall of 1966, I walked into George Tindall's seminar and my life changed," wrote Dr. Elizabeth Jacoway in the book's introduction. "Within a matter of weeks, the elegant gentleman with the wry wit and the bow ties had led me into a world of new concerns, deeper meanings and higher callings, and in his gentle way, he encouraged me to see that this could be my world, too."

Tindall is survived by his wife, Blossom McGarrity Tindall, of Chapel Hill; son, Bruce Tindall of San Diego; daughter, Blair Tindall of Santa Monica, Calif., and one grandson.

A memorial service will be held at the Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill in January. Arrangements are being handled by Walker's Funeral Home at 120 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, N.C., 27516, (919) 942-3861.

Memorial contributions may be made to the George B. Tindall Endowed Lectureship and Scholarship Fund, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, S.C. 29613.

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Photo URL: http://www.unc.edu/news/pics/faculty/former/tindall_george.jpg

Contact: Bruce Tindall, (858) 271-1940, btindall@ucsd.edu
News Services contact: L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589