Beloved political science professor Alexander Lamis passes away


Sage Schaff, Assistant News Editor

On Feb. 9, Case Western Reserve University professor Alexander Lamis passed away at age 65. He had been ill for the previous seven months due to a reaction to medications. Lamis is survived by his wife Renee and their three sons, Peter, Alexander, and Nicholas.

“Alec tried to share his sense that politics was the most important of activities, that it was about people struggling to make the world a better place,” CWRU political science department chair Joe White said of the late southern politics enthusiast.

Lamis’s legacy at CWRU will be marked by his founding of a faculty and staff public affairs Friday discussion forum, his establishment of a school-wide public policy initiative in 1992, and his extensive publication record. His landmark book is “The Two-Party South” and he also edited and partially wrote “Southern Politics in the 1990s.” He was in the middle of a third major work, entitled “Politics for the Spectator,” when his illness worsened.

Lamis began teaching at CWRU in 1988, but his diverse career began long before that. He graduated from the College of Charleston in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement. During his time there, his interest in politics and writing piqued when he had a confrontational interview with segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace while working for a local TV station.

After graduation, he worked for a newspaper in Arizona and served for the U.S. Navy in Iceland. He then returned to the U.S. to earn his doctorate and J.D. degrees from Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland, respectively. Lamis wrote for newspapers and taught at colleges in Maryland, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina before coming to CWRU.

Lamis’s immersion in such a wide range of political environments helped him become one of the leading authorities on southern politics. He was interested particularly in the rise of two-party competition in the South, which was typically a sea of blue on electoral maps before the 1960s. “His view of politics was grounded in big swings – particularly the dramatic changes in the South in which he grew up, and ideas about realignments in other parts of the country throughout its history,” White said.

Not only was Lamis respected amongst his colleagues, he was also held in high regard by his students. “He sounded and acted just like a news broadcaster from the 1960s,” said sophomore Patrick Clarke, who had Lamis for his American Political System course. “His detailed lectures on the history of Southern politics were rich with information you simply couldn’t find elsewhere.”