In memoriam: Raymond A. Mohl, past president of the Urban History Association and distinguished professor of history emeritus at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Ray Mohl was educated at Hamilton College, Yale, and NYU, where he earned his Ph.D. in History in 1967. He began as an early American historian and published his first book, a study of poverty and social welfare in early national New York City, in 1971. With it, Ray established his reputation as pioneering urban social historian. His interests in urban history broadened geographically and chronologically when he took his first tenure-track job, at Indiana University Northwest. There he delved into the history of the Rustbelt and retooled himself as a twentieth-century U.S. historian. He published two books on race and ethnicity in Gary.
After moving southward, first to Florida Atlantic University for twenty-six years, then to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, for nineteen years, Ray established himself as one of the leading historians of the Sunbelt.
He published a book and several articles about civil rights, immigration, and race relations in Miami. He wrote about Florida’s red scare, about black-Jewish relations in the region, and Miami’s peace and civil rights movement. His most recent work concerned Latino migration to Alabama and the American South.
Ray also bridged history and public policy. When the US Commission on Civil Rights came to Miami in 1995, it sought his testimony on the state of race relations in the city. He served as an expert witness in important housing and election litigation in Dade County, Florida. He reached out to an audience well beyond the academy by writing more than two dozen articles on Miami’s black history for the city’s African American newspaper, The Miami Times. And drawing from his extensive research on the history of American highways, he joined the Re-think 20/59 organization in Birmingham to challenge the Alabama Department of Transportation’s plan for rebuilding a bigger, taller, and wider elevated expressway through downtown Birmingham.
Few historians were more prolific than Ray. He wrote or edited 165 articles, and 113 book reviews, and presented his work worldwide. He received Fulbright professorships in Israel, Australia and Germany, the Frederick W. Connor Prize in the History of Ideas, the Caroline P. and Charles W. Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction, the Graduate School Mentor Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Florida Historical Society.
The Urban History Association honors Ray’s lifetime of engaged, urban scholarship, his teaching, mentorship, and friendship.