Roscoe Lee Strickland, Jr., the son of Roscoe Lee Strickland and Alma Morgan
Strickland, was born at home during a snowstorm at 36 Shepherd Avenue, Newark, New Jersey,
on December 21, 1917. The brass bed in which he was born is still in his
family's possession. Roscoe became very ill and nearly died during the influenza
epidemic of 1918. In Newark, he attended Berkeley School
and then Peshine Avenue School
from which he received a Certificate of Merit for "punctual and regular
attendance, correct deportment, and diligent attention to study" on January 30,
Roscoe's family were members of First
in Newark, and
Roscoe received a Sunday School Diploma on October 12, 1924, promoting him from
the Beginner's Department to the Primary Department. He was baptized at Peddie
Memorial on April 7, 1929, by Rev. Dr. M. Joseph Twomey. His family moved to 695 Prospect Street
in Maplewood, a Newark suburb, in 1927, and they eventually
moved their church affiliation to the Prospect Presbyterian Church there. Roscoe
was in the youth group and junior choir. Roscoe spent the summer of 1931 at
in Maine. He
played the clarinet, and he attended Tuscan
Junior High School, and Columbia High School.
Roscoe was a one
generation Yankee in his family. His parents and other ancestors went back
several generations in Nash County, North Carolina,
and Roscoe moved south to attend college and eventually married and raised his
family there. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University
in 1940, where he majored in history and was a charter member and first
president of the local chapter of Tau Psi Omega, an honorary French language
fraternity. He went on to earn the Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania
Roscoe was drafted into the United States Army on July 31, 1941,
during World War II. He attained the rank of Sergeant, serving in the Infantry,
Tank Destroyers, Signal Corps, and as a Russian interpreter in the Army Air
Forces Intelligence. Roscoe received a Good Conduct Medal, a World War II
Victory Medal, and was honorably discharged on November 28, 1945.
the war, Roscoe attended the University
of North Carolina in
Chapel Hill where he was a graduate teaching assistant. He also did
some farming at Hardscrabble Plantation, a 640 acre farm located on St. Mary's
Road near Hillsborough, which his family
had purchased in the summer of 1941. While at UNC,
Roscoe met and courted Lucy Cole Durham, and they were married at
in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday, December 27, 1947.
In 1949, Roscoe and Lucy moved to Murfreesboro,
Tennessee, where Roscoe taught history at Middle
for 23 years. He was assistant professor from 1949 to 1958, associate professor
from 1958 to 1963, and professor from 1963 to 1972. In 1958, Roscoe received the
Ph.D. in History from the
of North Carolina. His
specialty was modern European history, and his doctoral dissertation was
at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.
In 1959, Roscoe was a charter
member of the local Civitan Club, and he served as its president in 1962. He
also helped to organize the Rutherford County Republican Party in the 1960s and
served a term as its chairman. He actively worked for Republican candidates
running for political office, and he helped organize the first Republican Party
primary in Rutherford County. In 1966, he helped organize the
MTSU Faculty Senate and served as its first president. He was also president of
the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He was a
member of St. Mark's United
Church, a member of Stones River Country Club, and
he served on the board of the Tennessee Council on Human Relations in the late
1960s. In 1971, he was named to the roster of Outstanding Educators of America.
the mid 1960s, Roscoe and Lucy were the chief plaintiffs in a successful
lawsuit, "Strickland v. Burns" (T. P. Burns was chairman of the school board),
filed in the United States District Court in Nashville, Tennessee, against the
Rutherford County School Board for reapportionment based on the precept "one
man, one vote" (Reynolds v. Sims, 1964). Until then, the school board members
were, at least in practice, representing individual county schools instead of
the population as a whole. The city of Murfreesboro contained more than
one-third of the total population of the county, but it had only one of eleven
members on the board. Some schools got new gymnasiums, laboratories, etc. while
others were overlooked. After the lawsuit and subsequent reapportioned district
elections, the new members of the board were better able to make decisions based
on what was best for the educational program of the entire community.
In 1972, Roscoe moved his family to Buena Vista, Virginia,
where he served as president of Southern Seminary Junior College
(later renamed Southern Virginia University) from 1972 to 1976. In 1972, the 200 year
old house at Hardscrabble was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places. Roscoe had the house restored, and he and Lucy moved there upon his
retirement in 1976.
While living at Hardscrabble, Roscoe served as
president for four years of the Hillsborough Historical Society, treasurer for
many years of the HHS, and editor of the HHS Newsletter. He also served as
president and treasurer of the Historic Preservation Society of Durham,
treasurer of Stagville Preservation Center,
member of the Historic Hillsborough Commission, and treasurer of St. Mary's
Chapel Restoration Committee. He was a member of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church
in Hillsborough, serving on the vestry from 1986 to 1988 and as senior warden.
In 1988, Roscoe sold Hardscrabble to developers who built a residential
subdivision centered around the historic house. He and Lucy moved back to
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and enjoyed being near the good
friends they had made during their previous years there. Roscoe served as a
trustee and on the executive committee of the Middle Tennessee State University
Foundation from 1990 to 1996. He also served on the Board of National Advisors
of the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU.
Roscoe was an avid
foreign stamp collector nearly his entire life, amassing a collection of 150
albums of mounted stamps and first day covers, plus numerous boxes of souvenir
sheets and duplicates. He was a member of the American Philatelic Society from
1962 until his death, becoming a life member in 1992. He also enjoyed reading,
crossword puzzles, classical music, and traveling. He had a lifelong interest in
genealogy and recorded much information on his family's history.
became ill with shingles in 1988, and he suffered from post herpetic neuralgia
thereafter. He also suffered in later years from pulmonary fibrosis that
eventually led to his death from heart failure on September 29, 1997.
predeceased by two daughters, Alice M. Strickland (1948-1956) and Tracy D.
Strickland (1963-1972). He was survived by his wife, Lucy D. Strickland of
Murfreesboro; a daughter, Rachel M. Strickland of San Francisco; a son, Roscoe L. "Rocky" Strickland III of
Raleigh, North Carolina;
and a granddaughter, Tracy A. Strickland, of Raleigh. He was
Cemetery in Murfreesboro.
After his death, Roscoe
was honored by the MTSU Faculty Senate in a resolution in memory and recognition
of his record as a fine scholar and an admired and respected teacher.
Strickland Visiting Scholar
established the Strickland Visiting Scholar Program in the
MTSU History Department to enhance the quality of undergraduate and graduate history education.
The first scholar, in March 2000, was Gerhard Weinberg, an expert on Hitler and
Roscoe Lee Strickland, Jr., Collection
Some of Roscoe's correspondence, documents, and other
been preserved in the
Roscoe Lee Strickland, Jr., Collection at the
Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU.