Obituary Home Page
Some of these individuals participated in the ASC Oral History Project. For more information, please go to the Oral History Project page.
ALBERT K. COHEN
Albert K. Cohen, the noted criminologist and sociologist whose work and life enlightened and inspired scholars and law enforcement practitioners around the world, passed away unexpectedly on November 25 in Chelsea, MA. Al was born in Boston on June 15, 1918. He attended Boston Public Schools and graduated from the Boston Public Latin School in 1935. He attended Harvard University beginning in 1935 and graduated in 1939 with high honors as a Sociology major. Al noted in his personal biographical sketch that at Harvard he had the good fortune to take courses offered by outstanding sociologists including Pitirim Sorokin, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton.
Despite his outstanding academic record, Al was denied admission to most of the graduate Sociology programs he applied to. One department explained they were not allowed to admit Jews. However just as Al was preparing himself for an alternate career as a journalist, he received an acceptance letter from the Sociology Department at Indiana University. The Chairperson there was Edwin H. Sutherland, the leading criminologist of his day whom Al described as another powerful influence on his intellectual development. Al received his M.A. from Indiana University in 1942 and worked for nine months at the Indiana Boys School, a state institution for juvenile delinquents. He then served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army until June 1946, including one year in the Philippines where he met and “instantly” fell in love with his future wife Natividad Barrameda Manguerra (Nati), who worked at the Army’s Office of Information and Education. After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Al returned to Harvard as a Ph.D. candidate spending one year in residence before leaving A.B.D. for a teaching position at Indiana University in 1947. Nati joined Al in 1948 and they were married in December of that year. Al completed his thesis, Juvenile Delinquency and the Social Structure, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1951 while continuing to teach at Indiana University. His most famous work, Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang, considered an instant classic explanation of delinquency and gangs and a major breakthrough in criminological theory, was published in 1955 (and later republished internationally in many languages). In his research and theorizing on delinquency, Al ingeniously blended major aspects of Merton’s social structure - culture incongruity theory (anomie theory) of crime with Sutherland’s learning subcultural theory of crime to explain why so much delinquency occurred in groups (gangs), was committed by lower income kids, and included a lot of vandalism.
Al’s theory explains how the frustration of working class juveniles failing to achieve standards presented to them by a middle class dominated society and school system leads them to reject those standards and middle class authority figures and collectively create an alternative delinquent subculture. The delinquent gang subculture includes a number of values and norms in some ways opposite to those of middle class culture (like rejection of the importance of doing well in school, less respect for private property, and acceptance of violence as a way to achieve status). Thus many working class juveniles engage in vandalism and interpersonal violence (non-utilitarian forms of deviance not predicted by Merton’s theory) as a way to escape frustration, achieve status in the eyes of peers, and feel good about themselves. Al’s theory explains how social conditions experienced by a group of persons can lead them to create a collective solution to their mutual problem, a criminal subculture, which then becomes an additional cause of crime. Al later wrote Deviance and Control, a textbook on the Sociology of Deviance. He also authored many scholarly papers published in journals or as book chapters, most on delinquency, criminal organizations, and theories and concepts in criminology.
In 1965, Al moved from Indiana to accept the position of University Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut where he taught until he retired in 1988. Al was also a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto and a Visiting Professor or Visiting Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, the Institute of Criminology (Cambridge, England), Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), the University of Haifa, the University of the Philippines, and Kansai University in Osaka. Al also served as the President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Vice-President of the American Society of Criminology, and Executive Counselor for the American Sociological Association. In 1993, Al was given the American Society of Criminology’s Sutherland Award.
Al and Nati often had a graduate student living in the downstairs section of their house in Storrs, Connecticut and their home was always a warm and welcoming gathering place for faculty members, graduate students and visiting scholars.
After retiring, Al and Nati moved for the sake of her health first to Arizona and then to San Diego. Nati passed away there in 2003. Al moved back to Storrs where his friends greatly enjoyed having dinners with him. Al was always in great physical shape. As a teenager in Boston he was adept at the art of running alongside a truck, hopping on to catch a ride, and jumping off as the truck slowed down anywhere near his destination. In Storrs he enjoyed walking many miles, and, despite the distress of friends and family, kept hitchhiking into his 90s. Sometimes policemen picked him up and drove him home only to discover that he was the author of the famous book on juvenile delinquency they had read in their criminal justice programs.
Amazingly, after his return to UCONN, Al assisted in an FBI surveillance investigation and federal prosecution. Al was informed by the FBI that a supposed legitimate financial planner he was working with was in reality suspected of stealing from him and other clients. Al consented to having his condominium bugged and the FBI gathered important evidence that, with Al’s testimony and that of others, led to the perpetrator’s conviction and imprisonment in the federal prison system. Ever the criminologist, Al expressed interest in interviewing the incarcerated con man who was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars of his victims’ money on night clubs, multiple expensive vehicles, trips to Las Vegas and expensive gifts for exotic dancers.
Anyone who met Al soon realized he had a tremendous love of life, enormous compassion and an incredible wit and sense of humor. He kept everybody laughing at his jokes even while lying in a hospital bed. He loved to take pictures of flowers on his walks and enjoyed crafting all sorts of household items into pendants and other works of art. And he wrote many amusing poems. Al was enormously kind and helpful to everyone he knew. He was a strong supporter of the ACLU and contributed to many charities and to the universities where he studied and taught.
Al is survived by his loving niece Gerianne who took great care of her beloved Uncle Al after he could no longer live independently and by his nephews Richard Segal, Philip Segal and Marc Cohen, his niece Cindy Peterson, and Al and Nati’s niece Therese Eckel.
We all love you and miss you Al.
Authored by Al Cohen (University of Connecticut), Gerianne Cohen, Arnold Dashefsky (University of Connecticut), Jim DeFronzo (University of Connecticut) and Jungyun Gill (Stonehill College)
WILLIAM J. CHAMBLISS
William J. (Bill) Chambliss died on February 22, 2014. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer eight years ago. True to character, Bill continued to live life to the fullest and extended beyond all odds his time with us.
Bill was a leading force in the fields of criminology and the sociology of law, forging a powerful dialectical framework for the understanding of crime and law, and reinvigorating conflict theory in the process. He authored many of the most cited books and articles in criminology; taught, mentored, and was loved by generations of undergraduate and graduate students (myself among them); and, as an engaged scholar, was repeatedly called on by the media to comment on drug policies and other criminal justice issues. He was a scholar of immense stature, who continually gave to others his time, his intellect, and his incomparable spirit.
Bill never lost sight of the people behind his theories. If he wanted to understand burglars, he hung out with Harry King. If he wanted to demystify organized crime, he learned to hustle pool and play cards, frequented back alleys and boardrooms, and secured a chat with Meyer Lansky. Long before postmodernists preached the art of storytelling, Chambliss’s subjects came alive and were given voice on his pages. Gathering data from the archives of medieval England, the streets of Seattle, the villages of Nigeria, the poppy fields of Thailand, the sleek cityscapes of Scandinavia, and the ghettos in the heart of our nation’s capital, Bill routinely performed that most difficult task in sociology—engaging his “sociological imagination”—linking biography and history, the private lives of those he studied to the public issues they embodied.
Bill started his academic career as an undergraduate studying with Donald Cressey at UCLA. He later went to Indiana University for his PhD in sociology where he studied with Alfred Lindesmith and published “The Deterrent Influence of Punishment.” Bill’s first academic job was at the University of Washington where he wrote the pathbreaking “A Sociological Analysis of the Law of Vagrancy.” That piece quickly became a classic and established Bill as a founding father of both conflict criminology and the contemporary sociology of law.
At the same time, Bill was hanging out in Seattle’s pool halls, card rooms, and back alleys, determined to make sense of organized crime. He soon realized that this would require him to leave the back alleys, and go across town to corporate boardrooms and City Hall. Only Bill could have survived this fieldwork (and then, just barely, as I heard Bill’s stories about being threatened with beatings more than once). He not only survived—he published On the Take: From Petty Crooks to Presidents, a book that revolutionized our understanding not just of organized crime but of law enforcement and the state.
From Seattle, Bill went to UC Santa Barbara where he wrote seven books in as many years—including Law, Order, and Power and Crime and the Legal Process, which elaborated on his conflict theory of law and crime, and incorporated a critical race dimension long before it was fashionable. In those years too, he published Boxman: A Professional Thief’s Journey, giving us a first-hand account of the day-to-day life and methods of a professional thief. He also introduced us to “The Saints and the Roughnecks,” as they wreaked havoc on their neighborhoods and our conventional wisdoms. The “Saints and the Roughnecks” are among the 20th century’s best-known criminological characters, their names now code for unreliable stereotypes of conformity and delinquency.
At the University of Delaware in the late 1970s, Bill wrote yet another seminal piece entitled “On Lawmaking,” published in the British Journal of Law and Society. The dialectical theory of law he developed there, and later his theory of state-organized crime, put contradictions in the political economy at the center of analysis, and showed how law—and sometimes crimes by the state itself—are a response to those contradictions. The theory was paradigm-shifting and spawned dozens of dissertations, books and articles over the years.
Bill joined the Department of Sociology at George Washington University in 1986, where he co-directed the Institute on Crime, Justice, and Corrections. In DC, he researched law-enforcement practices in the racialized urban ghettoes, and the political dimensions of the war on crime, publishing his incisive Power, Politics, and Crime—a book Noam Chomsky called a “wake-up call” and Chesney-Lind praised as a “sweeping indictment” of our criminal justice policies.
Bill’s books and articles have been cited and reprinted widely, making their way not just onto our bookshelves but into student course packets and readers, year after year. Attesting to the profound influence Bill had on our thinking about crime and law, Bill received the Sutherland Award for Outstanding Contributions to Criminology from the American Society of Criminology; the Lifetime Achievement Award for Contributions in Criminal Justice from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Criminology section of the American Sociological Association; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sociology of Law section of the American Sociological Association; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems section on Law & Society, and the American Society of Criminology’s Major Achievement Award. He was elected president of the American Society of Criminology in 1987-88, and president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems in 1992-93. In 2012, the Society for the Study of Social Problems recognized Bill’s profound influence by creating the William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award. Bill was an international scholar, with visiting professorships in Nigeria, Sweden, London, Oslo, Stockholm, Vienna, Cardiff, and Zambia. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Guelph, Canada. And, Bill’s reputation spread well beyond the academy. When still an associate professor, Bill was appointed to the President’s Commission on Violence (1968-69), and in 1993 he was consultant to the National Criminal Justice Commission.
His passion, integrity, engaged scholarship, theoretical insight, and clearly crafted prose inspired generations of students and scholars. Donald Cressey once called the young Bill Chambliss, “one of my ‘sociological children’—people who drifted into my UCLA undergraduate classes in the 1950s and got turned on to sociology.” Hundreds of us are now Bill’s “criminological children (and grandchildren),” turned on to criminology by his righteous anger, his engagement, and his theoretical vision.
Bill was not only a giant of criminology and the sociology of law. He was an outsized human being with a generous heart and a contagious love of life. We will miss Bill more than words can say.
Bill is survived by his wife Pernille, his children Jeffrey, Lauren, and James, his grandchildren, and the many friends, colleagues, and students whose lives he touched.
Honoring the life of Bill Chambliss
Bill Chambliss, Professor of Sociology at the George Washington University since 1986, died on February 22, 2014.
A towering figure in sociology, Bill's work transformed the scholarly worlds of social theory, the sociology of law, and criminology. Among his "associates" were leading crime figures and the victims of their actions. As his longtime friend and fellow sociologist Richard Applebaum stated, "Bill repeatedly went to the streets. He hung out with such notorious organized crime chiefs as Meyer Lansky as well as low‐level drug dealers and petty criminals in Seattle; poppy growers, heroin traffickers, and CIA chiefs in Thailand's Golden Triangle; pirates of many stripes, whenever he could find them."
In a career spanning more than 50 years, he produced almost two dozen books and countless articles, which were frequently reprinted over the decades. He was elected President of the American Society of Criminology in 1998, President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems in 1993, and received lifetime achievement awards from the American Sociological Association Sections on Criminology in 1985 and the Sociology of Law in 2009. The American Society of Criminology awarded him the society's Major Achievement Award in 1995 and the Edwin H. Sutherland Award in 2001. In 2012, the Society for the Study of Social Problems created the William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award and Bill was the first recipient. Bill's life was filled with scholarly achievement and joy, both of which he shared with all those around him.
Bill truly "spoke truth to power" before that phrase became a cliché and his influence will long live on. To celebrate Bill's life and legacy, make a gift to support graduate students in sociology at the George Washington University. There are three easy ways to give:
Online at go.gwu.edu/billchambliss
Mail a check, payable to George Washington University and "Sociology in memory of Bill Chambliss" in the memo line, to 2100 M Street NW, Suite 310, Washington, DC 20052
Austin Turk had an extraordinary and lasting influence on the development of criminological theory and research. He was a brilliant scholar and a remarkable friend who lived an exciting and productive life before his passing on February 1 of this year.
Austin Turk began his occupational life as a police officer in Georgia, and a realism and toughness born of this experience showed through his work. Austin set out a distinctively rigorous Weberian vision of conflict criminology and insisted that it be tested using objective and scientific standards that remained hallmarks throughout his scholarly career.
The trajectory of Austin Turk’s influence on sociological and political criminology was anticipated early in his career with the publication of his classic book, CRIMINALITY AND LEGAL ORDER (Rand McNally, 1969). This work challenged the assumptions of prevailing consensus arguments without romanticizing crime or criminality. This book introduced and systematized the study of conflict and criminalization as testable interrelated phenomena. By citation count or virtually any other measure, this book quickly emerged and remains a landmark statement of a conflict theory of crime.
In following decades, Turk advanced the general field of conflict criminology he stimulated by applying its principles more specifically to the study of political criminality. He developed an early knowledge of crime and politics in South Africa as well as North America, and this was apparent throughout his career in the breadth of his theoretical and research contributions. For example, this was reflected in his important book on POLITICAL CRIMINALITY: The Defiance and Defense of Authority (Sage, 1982) and in his statement on “Political Crime” in Edgar Borgatta’s ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOCIOLOGY. One of the major contributions of this body of work is the elaboration a general theoretical model of the social conditions that lead some political disputes to escalate into political violence and others to de-escalate before violence erupts.
Austin Turk was a criminologist for more than five decades and his work was always of the moment. He wrote recently on the “new terrorism” of religiously dedicated “holy warriors,” saying that “such warriors can be expected to show little reluctance to use weapons of mass destruction” and that the “the portent is more incidents, more deaths and injuries, and more terrorist challenges to established social orders.” He was the author of a recent and similarly prophetic review essay on the “Sociology of Terrorism” in the Annual Review of Sociology (2004). Just last year, he published a book Examining Political Violence: Studies of Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Internal War (2013), with David Lowe and Dilip K. Das.
Literally in the last days of his life, Austin concluded an essay with the telling observation that "the reality to which counterterrorism responds is the ancient and unavoidable struggle to decide whether human freedom and dignity or oppression and exploitation will prevail in our lives” (forthcoming, WILEY HANDBOOK ON DEVIANCE, Eric Goode, ed.). In a time when social scientists have been slow to address such topics, Austin Turk as usual was thinking and writing at the leading edge of what should be among our prevailing concerns.
Austin Turk served his students, colleagues, and profession in numerous ways. Members of the American Society of Criminology will recall his recognition as a Fellow and his service as their past President. A colleague at the University of California at Riverside, where Austin last taught, remembers him “not only as a scholar of note, but also as an exceptionally warm human being, a generous friend and a caring mentor, a bon vivant, and a gracious host.” That is the memory of Austin Turk that his admiring colleagues and friends will treasure: he was as fun and stimulating to be around as he was passionate and realistic about the failings of the world he struggled to understand and improve. He was a good and loyal friend.
Austin Turk’ partner and spouse, Dr. Ruth-Ellen Grimes, shared with him a lifelong interest in sociological criminology. She joined with others to lay Austin to rest in Vermont on a threatening day this last May. Many former students and colleagues paid tribute to Austin at a symposium held at the University of California-Riverside on June 5. Austin loved the annual ASC meetings. In a most appropriate tribute, there will be a thematic panel to honor his memory and contributions at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco this coming November.
A. Ron Gillis, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
John L. Hagan, Northwestern University
August 15, 2014