Scholar Carleton Mabee at 99


Pulitzer Prize winner and seasonal Oak Bluffs resident Carleton Mabee died December 18, 2014. The author of numerous books and articles on American history, Mr. Mabee was Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at New Paltz and had been a seasonal resident of Oak Bluffs since 1950. He was 99 and would have been 100 on Christmas day.

Professor Mabee was born in Shanghai in 1914. His parents were teachers and missionaries.

He was educated at Bates College and Columbia University. His dissertation, The American Leonardo:  A Life of Samuel F. B. Morse, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1944.  Writing in the introduction, Allan Nevins said, “It is fortunate that the materials for a complete biography have fallen into the hands of a student so industrious and keen-sighted, and a writer so gifted, as Mr. Mabee.”

Other books followed: The Seaway Story (1961), Black Freedom: The Non-Violent Abolitionists From 1830 Through the Civil War (1970), Black Education in New York State from Colonial to Modern Times (1979, winner of several awards), Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend (1993, with his daughter Susan Newhouse).

During World War II, Dr. Mabee took a pacifist position, spending the war years as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service. His assignments included working as an attendant in mental hospitals. Immediately following the war he spent a year in Austria working for the American Friends Service Committee relief effort. Subsequently, he led several projects for the AFSC in the US, including a voter registration drive in North Carolina in 1963.

In 1945 he met and married Norma Dierking and the couple had two children, Timothy and Susan.

In 1953, he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach at Keio University in Japan. Over a long academic career, he taught history at Olivet College in Michigan, Clarkson College of Technology in New York, and Delta College in Michigan. He retired from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

He considered his true calling to be research and writing. After he retired, he focused his efforts on New York State history. He wrote Bridging the Hudson: The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge and Its Connecting Rail Lines (2001) and Listen to the Whistle: An Anecdotal History of the Walkill Valley Railroad (2009.) He served as historian to the Town of Gardiner, where he lived, and wrote Gardiner and Lake Minnewaska (2003). A final book on efforts to protect open space in the Shawangunk Mountains is forthcoming in 2015.

Services were held Saturday at New Paltz United Methodist Church in New York.