Dr. Richard Hathaway, a long-time member of the Society of Friends (Quaker), a former professor at SUNY New Paltz, and a pacifist active in the civil rights movement died in Poughkeepsie, NY on January 29, 2020, at the age of 92, after a brief illness. He served with the US Naval Reserve from 1945-46. At Oberlin College he received his BA summa cum laude in 1949. He earned his MA from Harvard University in 1952. He was executive secretary of the New England Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1953-55. He was an English instructor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY from 1957-62. In 1964 he earned his PhD from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. Dr. Hathaway served as a professor of English at the State University of NY at New Paltz from 1962 until he retired in 2001.In 1965-66 Dr. Hathaway and family moved to Jackson, MS, where he worked as associate professor at Millsaps College, the first all-white college to voluntarily integrate. He participated in the movement to end segregation.
Recalling his involvement with Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic civil rights march in Selma, AL, Dr. Hathaway said: “On the first day of the Selma march in 1965 there were many hundred of participants; however for the next few days the number was limited to fifty. The day before the March 21 start of the march I applied to Dr. King’s assistant, Andrew Young to be one of the fifty and he asked, what is your denomination, I said Quaker, so I was permitted to go beyond the first day.”
Dr. Hathaway also organized peace vigils during the Vietnam War, including an Easter Pilgrimage to the Peace Bridge near Niagara Falls. The Quakers in both the US and Canada had been regularly sending medical supplies to war-injured civilians on all sides in the Vietnam War. In 1966, the US government shut down the American Quakers’ Vietnam relief program; funding from American Quakers to the Canadian still-active relief program was also blocked. On Easter Sunday 1967, in an act of civil disobedience, Dr. Hathaway led approximately 300 participants, including many non-Quakers, to deliver cash across the Peace Bridge to Canadian Quakers.
Dr. Hathaway chaired the legislative committee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. In 1971, Dr. Hathaway was one of the chief organizers of a Quaker peace vigil in the sidewalk in front of the White House. Sponsored by New York Yearly Meeting of Friends, it began on June 2, 1971 and ran continuously all day and night until August 31, 1971. Those who stood in the vigil line were expected to maintain silence. The vigil had only one sign–it said” Quaker Vigil for Peace”. The vigil was reported in newspaper articles and editorials across the nation.
Dr. Hathaway is the author of “Sylvester Judd’s New England” (1981, Penn State University Press), which is a landmark biography of the 19th century Unitarian Minister and American novelist. “Reflections from Silence” (2011) is a book of Dr. Hathaway’s religious meditations. He is also the co-editor of The Henry James E-Journal and was the creator (1997) and maintainer of the online website “The Henry James Scholar’s Guide to Web Sites“. It is considered the chief Henry James web-site in the world.
Dr. Hathaway’s articles have been published in magazines and professional journals. His poems were published in journals and magazines, including the Chicago Sunday Tribune. In the 1980s McGraw-Hill hired him to do the computer programming for the workbooks accompanying John Langan’s textbooks: “Reading Skills”, “Sentence Skills” and “English Skills”. For “Sentence Skills”, Dr. Hathaway composed a computerized section on punctuation. In addition, he was the author and programmer of “Text: A Program About Literature.” (1990) Distributed in disc form by McGraw-Hill, it was designed to teach students to read drama, fiction, and poetry. He was a member of the Modern Language Association.
Dr. Hathaway has been featured in numerous honors publications, including multiple editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the East, and Who’s Who in the World. He received the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as an educator in 2018.
Dr. Hathaway was very active in the Religious Society of Friends his entire adult life, having responsibility with the New York Yearly Meeting, Nine Partners, and the Quarterly Meeting (as treasurer). A long-time member of the Poughkeepsie Meeting, he was on the Peace and Service Committee, Building and Grounds Committee, and also served as Treasurer. And let us not forget his homemade ice cream at their socials!
Dr. Hathaway was the son of Dale and Edith Hathaway. Edith, her father and grandmother were also Oberlin students. Dr. Hathaway has been married to Viola since 1978. With his first wife Shirley, he had two children: Bruce, who predeceased him in April 2019 and a daughter, Linda Ellis. He is survived by his wife Viola, daughter Linda, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Dr. Hathaway’s life will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2020 at 2:00 at the Poughkeepsie Friends Meeting House, 249 Hooker Ave, Poughkeepsie, NY. Donations in his memory can be made to: Poughkeepsie Friends Meeting, 249 Hooker Ave, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603.