John Alexander Carroll

“[W]ith his ebony-dyed hair and mustache, dressed in his signature attire–black pin stripe suit, red breast-pocket handkerchief, diamond stick-pin, watch and fob, silver-trimmed gambler’s hat, and black cowboy boots–he cut a remarkable figure.”

Indeed, John Alexander Carroll was a remarkable figure. Recipient of both a Purple Heart and a Pulitzer Prize, he invariably dressed just as flamboyantly as described above. His lectures were works of art — intent on telling a story; equally intent on making the story entertaining. His seminar supplied lessons I still use, among them, “Never be satisfied with the first draft of anything more formal than a postcard.” He required that a bibilography be listed in chronological order — an alphabetical list had no value other than the mere happenstance of the author’s name.

Jack Carroll’s graduate students were his colleagues, welcome at hotel room parties to mingle with the elite of western history; willing listeners to his ribald jokes, or stories of dinner with Margaret Mitchell, or his pre-war tour of America on an Indian motorcyle.

In 1968, after accepting me as a Ph.D. student, Professor Carroll fell into disagreement with the University of Arizona and departed suddenly for other interests. I never saw him after that year — and I always wanted to. He died in 2000.

For a brief essay on the remarkable John Alexander Carroll, see In Memoriam from The Western Historical Quarterly.