Lucius J. Barker (1928-2020)

Lucius Barker
Lucius Barker
Courtesy Jim Vanides, Fair use image

Lucius J. Barker was an African American political scientist who broke through racial barriers to become a leader in constitutional law, civil liberties, and African American politics. Born in Franklinton, Louisiana on June 11, 1928, Barker was the fifth of six children of teacher and principal Twiley Barker, Sr. and Marie Hudson Barker, an elementary schoolteacher. After graduating from high school, he attended Southern University in Baton Rouge.

Barker entered college as a promising pre-med student, along with his brother, Twiley, Jr., however, during his sophomore year the brothers were persuaded by a political science course to switch their majors from pre-med to politics. After obtaining his BA degree in Political Science in 1949, Barker received his MA degree in 1950 and PhD. degree in 1954 in Political Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His brother Twiley, Jr. also received MA and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from University of Illinois.

After graduating Barker took a position at his alma mater, Southern University. Later he worked at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee for eleven years. In 1964 Barker took a leave from his position to serve as Liberal Arts Fellow of Law and Politics at Harvard Law School. During that year Barker married his wife, the late, Maude Beavers. In 1967 Barker returned to the University of Illinois for two years and served as Assistant Chancellor. Two years later in 1969 Barker began teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and served as Political Science Department Chair there until 1990. Later that year, he took a position at Stanford University where he was the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science from 1990 until 2006. Barker also held posts as a visiting professor at other universities including Harvard before retiring from teaching in 2006.

Lucius Barker published several books. In 1970 he and his older brother Twiley, wrote Civil Liberties and the Constitution. In 1976 he wrote Black Americans and the Political System which was later titled, African Americans and the Political System. In 1988 he wrote Our Time Has Come about the Jesse Jackson Presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.

In 1984 Barker and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention representing Missouri. He was also president of the Midwest Political Science Association that same year. Barker was engaged in countless presidential campaigns as an activist and observer, ranging from John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960 to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.

In 1989 Barker was the founding editor of the National Political Science Review and in 1992 he became only the second African American president of the American Political Science Association (the first was 1950 Noble Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche). In 1994, Barker was appointed into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Association.

Lucius J. Barker, a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, died in his Northern California home on June 21, 2020 of complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 92. His wife, Maude, died 33 days earlier. Barker’s brother Twiley Barker, Jr. died in 2009. Barker is survived by two daughters.