Emmette Redford: Elected APSA President 50 Years Ago
Mon, August 24, 2009
Emmette Redford, former Ashbel Smith Professor of Government and Public Affairs, was one of the most distinguished professors to grace this campus. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his election as president of the American Political Science Association, a position he held in 1960-61.
Redford’s career at UT-Austin, which lasted his lifetime, began as an undergraduate. He received his B.A. in 1927 and M.A. in 1928; he left, receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1933, and Sept. 15, 1933 joined the faculty of the Department of Government as adjunct professor at a salary of $1800.00 for nine months. “I am glad to welcome you as a member of the teaching staff of The University of Texas,” wrote President H.Y. Benedict, Aug. 11, 1933.
Redford first enrolled at UT-Austin in 1922, but his studies were interrupted for two years, 1923-25, when he worked as a public school teacher in Hunt, Texas to help support his family. While in Hunt his future in political science began, through the correspondence course he took taught by Benjamin Fletcher Wright, who would later mentor Redford at Harvard. Recalling his introductory course, Redford insisted on the value of a comparative perspective: “We studied European democracy before we studied American democracy and, to this day, I think it’s a better preparation either for political science or for a knowledge of American government than a full year in an American government course.” Redford also remembered taking a course on State Government and Administration, taught by Frank Mann Stewart (who eventually left Texas for California, becoming “a granddaddy of political science at UCLA”) as well as World Politics and an advanced course in American Government and Administration taught by Caleb Perry Patterson.
Upon completing his B.A., Redford received a “tutorship”, courtesy of Prof. Patterson, which was a
full-time appointment giving Redford complete charge and responsibility for four sections of the introductory course in American government. At the time, professors in the department, at the end of each year, picked one person to be a new teacher in the department, gave that student a tutorship for one year, and if handled well, recommended promotion to an instructorship for a second year, a position offered for a maximum of two years. Redford served as tutor, completed his M.A., and became an instructor.
When Redford returned from Harvard, he established one of the first full-year political science courses
in public administration in the country, the only others being at Dartmouth and Harvard. He also taught
Government and the American Economy. Teaching responsibilities dominated the initial years of his
faculty assignment. He recounted, “If in the ‘30s you were trying to keep up with what was happening in
government and the American economy and also trying to keep up with European politics – keep up so you could teach advanced and graduate students – you had no time for anything else. So that I’d say that six years of my life I spent practically in just a teaching career, chasing the facts that I had to know to teach my courses.” But he had his two bits of wisdom to impart about ‘chasing the facts’. Teaching government regulation of the economy, Redford focused heavily on constitutional issues, which were big initially, but, “after 1937, those issues were being resolved quickly – in fact, the big ones were resolved that very year. I often say that the two things I knew best when I left Harvard were American constitutional law and the Weimar constitution in Germany and the Germans’ experience under it. And Hitler did away with the significance of my knowledge in one of those areas and the Supreme Court did away with the other in 1937, indicating that learning facts and facts alone is no durable way to endure in a profession.”
With major constitutional issues settled, Redford’s interest shifted to regulatory agencies and regulatory administration, and so he moved into the fields of administration and administrative regulation, and introduced a course in American National Administration and Administrative Law. Four years experience during World War II in administrative positions deepened his interest and knowledge. Redford worked for the national government during the war, starting in the Office of Price Administration, in price control, at the regional office, in Dallas, Jan. 2, 1942, three weeks after Pearl Harbor. “Personnel of the national government were at the American Political Science convention in December after Pearl Harbor searching for staff. I was asked to stop in Washington on the 31st, and I went to work before the end of the day,” he recalled. In the fall of 1944 he moved to Washington, D.C. and became Assistant Deputy Administrator for Rationing. “I came out of World War II understanding, by experience, the various aspects of administrative operations and from that time on I was able to illustrate almost any aspect of administration by something I’d been introduced to by experience.”
Redford enjoyed discussing “political behavior.” He enjoyed quoting his colleague (and longtime
Department of Government chairman), O.D. Weeks, who used to say, “I’ve always been teaching political
behavior. I’m teaching behavior as it is in government.” In some circles behavior became synonymous
with a more self-consciously scientific approach to the study of politics, but for traditionalists, studying behavior simply meant "focusing attention on persons acting politically, instead of focusing on institutions, events, or ideologies." The main point from Redford’s vantage point was that the wartime experience enriched the teaching of public administration and opened the door to focus on the behavior of administrative organizations and the people within them. For Redford, the wartime experience and availability of new materials “changed the teaching of public administration from something based purely upon academic knowledge to something based on a more intimate view of what the processes of administration were like.”
A career interest in government and the economy began with constitutional questions, shifted into
administration, and by 1960 moved more to the political aspects of the subject. Redford witnessed a
continuing conflict in the post-war period between scholars who had come to appreciate the political
aspects of administration and those who viewed administration as a separate, non-political kind of
undertaking. Redford came down firmly “with people like Paul Appleby, Wallace Sayre, Norton Long and
others who thought of administration as an aspect of politics, a subject that belonged in political
science departments, and which should be taught as part of general American government and political
While Redford may have believed administration belonged within political science departments, larger
forces were at play that would take him away from the Department of Government. Redford was born in San Antonio, but he grew up in Johnson City, where he was close with the family of Lyndon Baines Johnson. When LBJ became president, Redford and his colleague, William Livingston, decided they should get the president’s papers deposited at the University. When they approached Harry Ransom about the issue, they discovered discussions were already underway at the highest level of the University to establish what would become the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Redford eventually retired from the Department of Government and resumed his active status as the first faculty member of the LBJ School. Livingston and Redford were the key players on the LBJ School planning committee. The following exchange between these two giants is revealing. Redford told Livingston, “You were chairman of the committee that planned the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.” Livingston replied: “Yeah, but if I was chairman, you were the heart and soul.”
Perhaps no statement reflects more clearly on Emmette Redford’s legacy than that of the late Sam Beer,
the eminent Harvard political scientist, who wrote in a 1974 personal correspondence, “I trust Redford’s students continue to run the government, no matter what the Constitution.”
Read Elspeth Rostow's memorial resolution in honor of Emmette Redford.
Read Emmette Redford's 1961 Presidential Address to the American Political Science Association.
Prepared by Stuart Tendler. Most quotations and text are drawn from interviews of Emmette Redford
conducted in 1982 by William Livingston on behalf of the Political Science Oral History Program of Pi
Sigma Alpha and the American Political Science Association, and retrieved from the William S.
Livingston Papers, the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin. Excerpts of those
interviews, and others, can also be found in Baer, Michael A., Malcolm E. Jewell, and Lee Sigelman,
eds. 1991. Political Science in America: Oral Histories of a Discipline. Lexington: The University
Press of Kentucky.