SANTA CRUZ - A UC Santa Cruz professor whose research and testimony contributed to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education decision died Saturday.
M. Brewster Smith, a professor emeritus of psychology, was 93 years old.
Smith joined the university as vice chancellor for social sciences in 1970, serving in that capacity until 1975. He continued working as a professor of psychology until retiring in 1988.
Smith's daughter, Rebecca Garber, said her father died peacefully after a short stay in the hospital. No funeral services are planned and a memorial will be held at a later date.
"Psychology has lost a major contributor and statesman," said Thomas Pettigrew, a longtime colleague and fellow UCSC psychology professor.
Smith spent much of his career focused on the interplay of psychological and political processes. In recent years, Smith drew on psychological research to suggest ways to reduce the threat of nuclear war. Although known as a social psychologist, he considered himself a humanistic psychologist who strove to build a humane approach to academics and an academic approach to humanity.
In 1952, Smith testified as an expert witness against segregation in a case before a Richmond, Va. federal appeals court, one of four lower court cases that led to the Supreme Court's decision to ban school segregation in Brown vs. the Board of Education. Smith, who testified that segregation
harmed a child's self-esteem and thus affected their ability to learn, considered his testimony to be among his greatest contributions to society.
With two of his Harvard professors, Smith turned his doctoral thesis into the pioneering book "Opinions and Personality". He wrote more than 300 other publications, including several books and the 2003 compilation "For a Significant Social Psychology: Collected Writings" of M. Brewster Smith. He played influential roles in the direction of a number of scholarly journals, including the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology and the Journal of Social Issues.
Mahlon Brewster Smith was born in Syracuse, N.Y. on June 26, 1919 and later moved to Corvallis, Ore. with his family when his father, an English professor, became a dean at Oregon State University.
Smith earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology at Stanford University, and he'd just finished the first year of graduate study at Harvard University in 1941 when he was drafted into the Army. Smith recalled that he wanted to delay his service but the draft appeal board met on Dec. 7, 1941.
Smith rose from private to major and received the bronze star before re-enrolling at Harvard.
Smith earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1947 and joined the faculty as an assistant professor. He subsequently was on the faculty of Vassar College, New York University, UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago and UCSC.
Smith is survived by his wife Deborah of Santa Cruz; sons Joshua Smith of Seattle; Dance Smith, of Tacoma, Wash.; Torquil Smith, of Berkeley; daughter Rebecca Garber of San Diego; and five grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to UC Santa Cruz where Smith supported scholarships and many programs.
©2012 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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