News and Events

Memorial Service for UF Historian Samuel Proctor Oct. 16

July 10, 2005

Samuel Proctor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Samuel Proctor, a University of Florida professor emeritus of history and the university's historian, died today at his home after a long illness. He was 86.

David Colburn, a UF history professor and former provost, knew Proctor for more than 30 years and said it's hard to think about the future of UF without him.

"Sam is so much a part of this university's history, and he stood for all of the right things that you want a faculty member to stand for," Colburn said. "He cared greatly for his students and stayed in close touch with them. He invested enormously in UF by participating in every major committee on campus, and the historic buildings would not still be standing were it not for his leadership. No one has done more to advance the history of the state and the University of Florida."

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Proctor came to UF as a freshman in 1937 to study history. After receiving a bachelor's degree in history in 1941, he went on to earn a master's degree in history in 1942 -- in just two semesters -- writing a 560-page thesis on Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward. Proctor then was drafted into the Army to serve during World War II at Camp Blanding, near Starke, giving illiterate recruits a basic education in reading and arithmetic.

When he was discharged from the service in 1946, he was offered scholarships to pursue an international law degree at Yale University and The Ohio State University. But Proctor was persuaded to come back and teach at UF by the chairman of the freshman social sciences program, William Carleton. Then-UF President J. Hillis Miller named Proctor the university's first historian and archivist and commissioned him to write a book on the history of UF in honor of the university's 100th anniversary in 1953. Proctor submitted the book as a dissertation and received a doctorate from UF in 1958.

In 1967, Proctor established the Oral History Program in UF's department of history, with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of the economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life of Florida and the South. The collection, to date, holds more than 3,900 interviews and 350,000 pages of transcribed material, making it the largest oral history archive in the South and one of the major collections nationwide.

Proctor published a history of the university called "Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida" in 1986 with Langley Press. He edited Florida Historical Quarterly for 30 years, and he was named one of the 50 Most Important Floridians of the 20th century, which was compiled by the Lakeland Ledger in 1998.

Proctor retired in June 1996 after teaching at the university for 50 years. During his retirement, he continued to serve as the official UF historian and as director emeritus of the Proctor Oral History Program, which was renamed in his honor, and regularly conducted oral history interviews for the program. In July 2004, the university presented him with an honorary Doctorate of Public Service in recognition of his lifelong contributions to the university community.

Proctor is survived by his wife of 56 years, Bessie; two sons, Mark J. of Pensacola and Alan L. of Atlanta, both of whom are UF alumni; two brothers, George and Sol, both of Jacksonville; two granddaughters; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial service for Proctor will be held on Sunday, October 16 at 2
pm in Gainesville at the Congregation B’nai Israel at 3830 Northwest
16th Boulevard. For more information, please E-mail editor@clas.ufl.edu
or call (352) 846-2032.

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