John Morton Blum, an eminent Yale historian who taught the likes of former President George W. Bush ’68, U.S. Sen. John Kerry ‘66 and former Yale professor Henry Louis Gates ’73, has passed away in North Branford, CT. He was 90.
Blum, a Harvard man, joined Yale’s History Department in 1957. A former chair of the department, Blum was regarded by many as one of the most distinguished and esteemed historians and craftsman in political history.
“John was a great citizen of Yale, a pioneer in helping us understand the meaning of equality in America, and he embodied what it means to be a historian engaged in the public world,” professor David Blight wrote in an email Monday.
Blum, who published numerous books in the past four decades that covered a wide variety of topics, including the Wilson Era, Progressive Presidents, discord in American politics and society, retired in 1991. Despite his retirement, Blum continued to publish, give interviews and appear in historical documentaries well into his 80s. His teaching left an impression on Bush, as the former president mentioned Blum in a 2001 Class Day speech:
As a student, I tried to keep a low profile. It worked. Last year the New York Times interviewed John Morton Blum because the record showed I had taken one of his courses. Casting his mind’s eye over the parade of young faces down through the years, Professor Blum said, and I quote, “I don’t have the foggiest recollection of him.” [Laughter]
But I remember Professor Blum. And I still recall his dedication and high standards of learning. In my time there were many great professors at Yale, and there still are
Blum is survived by his wife of 65 years, Pamela, and their three children. A memorial service will be held in November, Blight wrote.