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William Bilderback ’61

May 19, 2020, in Portland, Oregon, at home.

The son of Dr. J.B. Bilderback, founder of Doernbecher Hospital for Children in Portland, Bill followed his older sister, Carolyn Bilderback ’38, to Reed. He was a student of Prof. Richard Jones [history 1941–86], who instilled in him a love of English history and history in general, sparking an affection for Reed that never waned. He wrote his thesis, “The Cotton Whigs of Massachusetts: A Conservative Reaction to the Slavery Crisis,” advised by Prof. David Tyack [education and history 1959–69].

An excellent example of the value and openness of a Reed education, Bill was a Burkean conservative in a liberal environment. His devotion to history was evident throughout his life. He received a PhD in history from the University of Washington with a dissertation on the American Communist Party of World War II. He was always interested in “the big three”—Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin—and his love of Churchill led him into the English archives in Manchester hoping to find evidence that Churchill did not sacrifice Russian prisoners of war to Stalin’s bloody retaliation.

He began his teaching career at Southern Oregon College and taught at Boise State, Oregon State, and Portland State universities. Early in his career, Bill showed his love of England and Shakespeare by directing a college production of Richard III. He loved libraries, any library, including Reed’s, the University of Washington’s, and the Hollywood Public Library in Portland. He was a steadfast suporter of Reed. He is survived by Laura, his wife of 50 years; son, Eric; and daughter, Suzanne.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2021

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