Emmett Jefferson "Pat" Murphy (1926 - 2013)

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  • "Pat was a great friend, a well informed intellectual and..."
    - Jim Leheny
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SARASOTA, Fla. - Emmett Jefferson Murphy, known by friends and family as "Pat", passed away peacefully June 19, 2013, in Sarasota.

Pat lived in the Amherst, Massachusetts area for many years, having served as the head of Five Colleges, Inc. Born in Thomasville, Ga., on July 2, 1926, Pat had a distinguished career as an Africa specialist, author, and college administrator. In retirement, he was an amateur home builder, tireless political activist, and avid sailor who spent years sailing the Caribbean.

Pat received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Emory University and served in the Navy during World War II.

He began his career as an Africa specialist while serving as visiting lecturer in social anthropology at South Africa's University College of Fort Hare (then the only college for non-whites in apartheid South Africa). He spent 17 years at the African American Institute directing its activities in East and West Africa and, ultimately, the overall organization as executive vice-president.

In 1973, he completed his doctorate in education and became a full time consultant to Carnegie Corporation of New York. In 1975 he was named coordinator and chief executive officer of Five College, Inc., the consortium linking Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Murphy retired as coordinator in 1988, to serve as Five College Professor of African Studies, based at Smith College, until his retirement in 1991.

As an author, he wrote a series of favorably reviewed books on African history between 1969 and 1981. His History of African Civilization is a classic textbook on African history.

In retirement, Pat devoted himself to political activism; serving as vice-president and Steering Committee member of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, Steering Committee member of the Southwest Florida Peace Coalition, and as chief writer and consultant for the internet emailing service of Progressive Secretary.

Pat married Mildred Blackmon in 1956. Together they had three children, Terry (Deb) Murphy of Milwaukee, Wisc., Kathleen (Steve) Degrenier of Sarasota, and Patrick Murphy of Los Angeles, Calif., all of whom survive.

For the past 24 years, Pat enjoyed life, love, travels and political activism with his wife, Winifred "Freddie" WindRiver.

In addition to Freddie and his children, Pat is survived by grandsons Alex and Andre DeGrenier; step-children David (Heidi), Mark and Barbara Willoughby; step-grandchildren Stella and Colin; and numerous nephews and nieces.

A memorial service in Amherst is being planned for Pat's family and friends and the Five College Community for Sunday, Oct. 27.

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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Sept. 21, 2013
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