Warren L. d'Azevedo
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August 19, 1920
January 19, 2014
Warren L. d'Azevedo passed away on January 19, 2014 at his home in Healdsburg, California. He was born in Oakland, California and grew up in the Bay Area and in Modesto where his farther was a physician. He attended Modesto Junior College and Fresno State University before graduating with a bachelor's degree in Anthropology and English from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) in 1942. He served as a seaman in the Merchant Marine during World War II, an experience that profoundly influenced his outlook on labor, labor unions, and civil rights. During the war, he married Kathleen Addison in Seattle on January 25, 1944. They had two children, Anya and Erik.
After World War II, he worked on the docks and elsewhere in Oakland and was involved in the turmoil and strife of labor union organizing following the war. In 1951 he began graduate studies in anthropology at UCB while working various jobs and continued involvement in labor issues. In November, 1952 he began his anthropological field work with the Washoe Tribe in Nevada.
A growing interest in Africa led him to enter Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to study with the leading Africanist of the day, Melville J. Herskovits. In the Fall of 1953, the family moved to Evanston and Warren began course work. In 1955 the family moved to West Africa where Warren spent nearly two years among the Gola people of Liberia doing fieldwork for his Ph.D. (awarded 1960). He continued professional and warm personal relationships with both the Washoe and Gola peoples for the rest of his life.
After teaching at UCB, the University of Utah, and the University of Pittsburgh, in 1963 Warren was invited to the (then) University of Nevada to found an anthropology department. Under his guidance, the department grew, first into an internationally recognized teaching and research department focused on the Great Basin, and later on other world areas. He played key roles in founding the Social Sciences Center of the Desert Research Institute, and advising students who formed the Black Students Union, the first minority student organization in campus. Throughout his life, Warren was a strong supporter of minority civil rights and Native religious freedom, both on campus and in the larger society.
He continued ethnographic work among Washoe people and with the Gola of Liberia well after his retirement in 1988. He also continued analyzing and publishing his voluminous data until shortly before his death. He published dozens of highly regarded scholarly works, and was the senior editor of the encyclopedic Great Basin volume of the Smithsonian Institution Handbook of North American Indians (1986). Throughout his career, Warren was called on the lecture at universities and scholarly meetings across the country and in Europe. In 1979-80, he was a visiting professor of anthropology at Princeton University.
Warren was a charismatic and inspiring teacher, always challenging his students to think deeply and critically about themselves in relation to their own society and peoples around the world. He supervised the research work of numerous master's and doctoral students in anthropology who went on to productive professional careers. In addition to his anthropological work, he was an accomplished artist, short story writer and poet.
He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, daughter Anya d'Azevedo, both of Healdsburg, son Erik, od Berkeley, California, Christine and Cecil De Loach (niece and husband) of Healdsburg and Sharreen and Ron Gervais (niec and husband) of Alameda, California.
A book of essays in Warren's honor was published in 1994 by the Smithsonian Institution Press. In 2006 at the bi-annual Great Basin Anthropological Conference -- a major scholarly organization he helped develop in the 1960s -- Warren was honored by the Washoe Tribe for his decades of work with tribal elders to help preserve knowledge of traditional culture, and his many efforts in support of the Tribe.
Warren wished that there be no formal memorial service for him, but he will be long and warmly remembered by his family, friends, former students and colleagues in North America, Africa and elsewhere. He deeply touched hundreds of lives, and all who knew him are the better for it.
Published in Reno Gazette-Journal on Jan. 28, 2014