Rocky Strickland's Genealogy Roscoe Lee Strickland, Jr.

Biographical Sketch

Roscoe L. Strickland, Jr., age oneRoscoe Lee Strickland, Jr., the son of Roscoe Lee Strickland and Alma Morgan Strickland, was born at home during a snowstorm at 36 Shepherd Avenue, Newark, New Jersey, on December 21, 1917. The brass bed in which he was born is still in his family's possession. Roscoe became very ill and nearly died during the influenza epidemic of 1918. In Newark, he attended Berkeley School and then Peshine Avenue School from which he received a Certificate of Merit for "punctual and regular attendance, correct deportment, and diligent attention to study" on January 30, 1925.

Roscoe's family were members of First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church in Newark, and Roscoe received a Sunday School Diploma on October 12, 1924, promoting him from the Beginner's Department to the Primary Department. He was baptized at Peddie Memorial on April 7, 1929, by Rev. Dr. M. Joseph Twomey. His family moved to 695 Prospect Street in Maplewood, a Newark suburb, in 1927, and they eventually moved their church affiliation to the Prospect Presbyterian Church there. Roscoe was in the youth group and junior choir. Roscoe spent the summer of 1931 at Camp Wapello in Maine. He played the clarinet, and he attended Tuscan School, Maplewood Junior High School, and Columbia High School.

Roscoe was a one generation Yankee in his family. His parents and other ancestors went back several generations in Nash County, North Carolina, and Roscoe moved south to attend college and eventually married and raised his family there. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University in 1940, where he majored in history and was a charter member and first president of the local chapter of Tau Psi Omega, an honorary French language fraternity. He went on to earn the Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941.

Roscoe was drafted into the United States Army on July 31, 1941, during World War II. He attained the rank of Sergeant, serving in the Infantry, Tank Destroyers, Signal Corps, and as a Russian interpreter in the Army Air Forces Intelligence. Roscoe received a Good Conduct Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and was honorably discharged on November 28, 1945.

Roscoe, Roscoe Jr., Rachel, and Alma Strickland, ca. 1925After the war, Roscoe attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill where he was a graduate teaching assistant. He also did some farming at Hardscrabble Plantation, a 640 acre farm located on St. Mary's Road near Hillsborough, which his family had purchased in the summer of 1941. While at UNC, Roscoe met and courted Lucy Cole Durham, and they were married at Monument Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday, December 27, 1947.

In 1949, Roscoe and Lucy moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Roscoe taught history at Middle Tennessee State University for 23 years. He was assistant professor from 1949 to 1958, associate professor from 1958 to 1963, and professor from 1963 to 1972. In 1958, Roscoe received the Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina. His specialty was modern European history, and his doctoral dissertation was Czechoslovakia at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.

In 1959, Roscoe was a charter member of the local Civitan Club, and he served as its president in 1962. He also helped to organize the Rutherford County Republican Party in the 1960s and served a term as its chairman. He actively worked for Republican candidates running for political office, and he helped organize the first Republican Party primary in Rutherford County. In 1966, he helped organize the MTSU Faculty Senate and served as its first president. He was also president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He was a member of St. Mark's United Methodist Church, a member of Stones River Country Club, and he served on the board of the Tennessee Council on Human Relations in the late 1960s. In 1971, he was named to the roster of Outstanding Educators of America.

Roscoe L. Strickland, Jr., age 21In the mid 1960s, Roscoe and Lucy were the chief plaintiffs in a successful lawsuit, "Strickland v. Burns" (T. P. Burns was chairman of the school board), filed in the United States District Court in Nashville, Tennessee, against the Rutherford County School Board for reapportionment based on the precept "one man, one vote" (Reynolds v. Sims, 1964). Until then, the school board members were, at least in practice, representing individual county schools instead of the population as a whole. The city of Murfreesboro contained more than one-third of the total population of the county, but it had only one of eleven members on the board. Some schools got new gymnasiums, laboratories, etc. while others were overlooked. After the lawsuit and subsequent reapportioned district elections, the new members of the board were better able to make decisions based on what was best for the educational program of the entire community.

In 1972, Roscoe moved his family to Buena Vista, Virginia, where he served as president of Southern Seminary Junior College (later renamed Southern Virginia University) from 1972 to 1976. In 1972, the 200 year old house at Hardscrabble was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Roscoe had the house restored, and he and Lucy moved there upon his retirement in 1976.

While living at Hardscrabble, Roscoe served as president for four years of the Hillsborough Historical Society, treasurer for many years of the HHS, and editor of the HHS Newsletter. He also served as president and treasurer of the Historic Preservation Society of Durham, treasurer of Stagville Preservation Center, member of the Historic Hillsborough Commission, and treasurer of St. Mary's Chapel Restoration Committee. He was a member of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Hillsborough, serving on the vestry from 1986 to 1988 and as senior warden.

In 1988, Roscoe sold Hardscrabble to developers who built a residential subdivision centered around the historic house. He and Lucy moved back to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and enjoyed being near the good friends they had made during their previous years there. Roscoe served as a trustee and on the executive committee of the Middle Tennessee State University Foundation from 1990 to 1996. He also served on the Board of National Advisors of the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU.

Roscoe was an avid foreign stamp collector nearly his entire life, amassing a collection of 150 albums of mounted stamps and first day covers, plus numerous boxes of souvenir sheets and duplicates. He was a member of the American Philatelic Society from 1962 until his death, becoming a life member in 1992. He also enjoyed reading, crossword puzzles, classical music, and traveling. He had a lifelong interest in genealogy and recorded much information on his family's history.

Roscoe became ill with shingles in 1988, and he suffered from post herpetic neuralgia thereafter. He also suffered in later years from pulmonary fibrosis that eventually led to his death from heart failure on September 29, 1997. He was predeceased by two daughters, Alice M. Strickland (1948-1956) and Tracy D. Strickland (1963-1972). He was survived by his wife, Lucy D. Strickland of Murfreesboro; a daughter, Rachel M. Strickland of San Francisco; a son, Roscoe L. "Rocky" Strickland III of Raleigh, North Carolina; and a granddaughter, Tracy A. Strickland, of Raleigh. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro.

After his death, Roscoe was honored by the MTSU Faculty Senate in a resolution in memory and recognition of his record as a fine scholar and an admired and respected teacher.

Strickland Visiting Scholar

Roscoe's family established the Strickland Visiting Scholar Program in the MTSU History Department to enhance the quality of undergraduate and graduate history education. The first scholar, in March 2000, was Gerhard Weinberg, an expert on Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Roscoe Lee Strickland, Jr., Collection

Some of Roscoe's correspondence, documents, and other items have been preserved in the Roscoe Lee Strickland, Jr., Collection at the Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU.

Roscoe and Lucy Strickland, 1990

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