Dr. William Bridges Hunter
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DR. WILLIAM BRIDGES HUNTER, 90 died Friday, February 10, 2006. A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 18, at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Professor Hunter was born June 7, 1915 in Louisville, Kentucky, the first of two sons of Will Hunter and Florence Porter. After graduating from Princeton University and working a year for the L&N Railroad, he earned a PhD. in English from Vanderbilt University. His specialty was Milton, and he was one of the founding members of the Milton Society of America, serving as secretary for 20 years. He was general editor of A Milton Encyclopedia; author of The Descent of Urania, Milton's Comus: Family Piece, and Bright Essence: Studies in Milton's Theology: and the editor of The Complete Poetry of Ben Johnson and of selections in The English Spenserians. In addition he published many other scholarly articles on Milton, Shakespeare, and various other 17th century English poets. He taught English at Mary Baldwin, Wofford, Baylor, the University of Idaho, Macalester College, the University of New Hampshire, and finally at the University of Houston. He also taught as a Fulbright professor in India. Having won awards as a teenager for his piano playing, Mr. Hunter was truly a Renaissance man. His was strong, no-nonsense voice for public education (he served on a school board), he enjoyed the symphony (he played first flute in the Spartanburg, S.C. orchestra) and opera, and had a great appreciation for art history, Biblical studies, science, gardening, travel, hiking, and chocolate. He was also skilled in electronics and in playing chess. However, the most important love of his life was his wife of over 65 years, Margaret Jackson, currently of Friends Homes. Besides his wife, surviving him are sons and daughters-in-law, Bill and Eris Hunter of Brooklyn, N.Y., Jim and Louise Hunter of Colorado Springs, CO; and daughters and sons-in-law, Sarah and Tom Wright of Greensboro, and Penelope and Lee Carr, of Catoosa, OK. Also surviving are eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3906 W. 3906 W. Friendly Ave., Greensboro, NC 27410 Forbis & Dick Guilford Chapel is assisting the family.

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Published in Houston Chronicle on Feb. 16, 2006.
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22 entries
March 7, 2006
Others have written that they know Bill’s work better than they knew him, but I knew him before I knew his work.
After an outside search that was conducted because our department was engaged in a bitter civil war, Bill was elected chair. Throughout the interview process and in his first weeks in office, he was always personable, cheerful, and completely at ease in what felt to me like a war zone. The first thing he did was to meet with each of us individually to discuss our academic careers. He enthusiastically encouraged each of us improve our scholarly work. He also made it, as Bob Dylan says, “all too concise and too clear” that he expected those who were trying to wage a war of annihilation on their colleagues were to STOP doing so immediately and behave like decently.
As chairman Bill achieved something that no other chairperson had. Our faculty meetings were supposed to last from 1:00 to 2:00, but they had always gone on and on and on. For the entire time that Bill was chair, faculty meetings began exactly at l:00 and ended at 2:00—not 2:05 or even 2:01. Because of his efficiency, we always managed to deal with the entire agenda. And he saw to it that the meetings were civilized!
After he was semi-retired Bill taught one Milton seminar a year. One fall semester I sensed that he might never do it again, so I attended that seminar. Luckily there was a really collegial and intelligent core of graduate students in that seminar, and the seminar was not only wonderful, it got me hooked on Milton. Those students and I all attended his spring seminar on Shakespeare’s history plays. When school was out some of us began, perhaps at Vickie Hodges’s suggestion, to have lunch together, and five or six of us and Bill continued to do that—every Friday for several years until he and Margaret moved to North Carolina. We all got to be really good friends, and Milton was the focus of much of our discussion.
Those lunches were always enriched by his knowledge, his good humor, his wisdom, and his wonderful—sometimes devastating—wit.
Bill and Margaret have remained good friends to me ever since. I have met all four of Bill and Margaret’s children and know that Bill and Margaret did a wonderful job at the most important responsibility any of us has—raising our children to be fine human beings.
Bill gave an enormous amount of time to encouraging others to write and write well. He read, commented very specifically on, and edited all kinds of writing for academics and non-academics as well. He also ran classes for his and other churches here in Houston, usually on Donne or Milton, and ran classes for the senior citizens in the Friends complex at which he and Margaret lived in Greensboro. Such work must have taken an enormous amount of time and effort, but he not only gave freely and generously of his time, but also seemed enthusiastic to help. He was always encouraging, and he was always—even after he was confined to a wheelchair--determined to look on the bright side of things. He was a valuable friend one could always count on, to paraphrase cummings, to laugh your joy and cry your grief.
Although I am by training a twentieth century specialist, I now describe myself as a “Born Again Miltonist.” Because of Bill’s influence I now teach the undergraduate Milton course every year and enjoy every minute of it. Bill helped students who entered his courses terrified of Milton and unable to read Milton’s poetry discover that they COULD understand—and enjoy—Milton’s poetry. He gave his students and me a wonderful gift!
I miss him.
sherry zivley
February 23, 2006
I was already impressed by Bill's scholarly reputation before meeting him at the Milton conferences in Murfreesboro. Then I was delighted to discover what a charming and gracious man he was. I will miss him.
Kevin Donovan
February 22, 2006
I knew Bill for more than 30 years, and valued his learning, his laughter, his Texas ties, and his ability to ask awkward questions.
Vestibus hunc igitur pullis, Academia, luge.
Gordon Campbell
February 22, 2006
Until the late 1980s, I knew Bill only through his important and prolific work on Milton. When we met at the International Symposium in Vancouver, he expressed his intention to attend the first Milton conference in Murfreesboro, and he was a "regular" thereafter. And ever thoughtful, he wrote the academic deans at Middle Tennessee State University and Christian Brothers University after each conference to make sure they were aware of an event that he considered significant. Bill was a wonderful letter writer, and when we discovered that we had Minnesota, Texas, and Tennessee in common, we corresponded regularly. Of his three years at Macalester he wrote: "My main memories are of the mosquitoes in the summer--and of the ducks, which seemed to be nesting everywhere. And of the red-winged blackbirds that tilted as they sang on the tops of milkweed." And, after the death of my father, he wrote: "At the last, gently. I know you wouldn't have had it any other way." I would wish the same for him. He will be greatly missed.
Kris Pruitt
February 21, 2006
May he rest in peace, and rise in glory
Lewis Whitaker
February 21, 2006
For me, Bill Hunter was a model of what a scholar ought to be: fair-minded, generous, careful, patient, scrupulous, and kind. Some years ago he reviewed for Milton Studies an article whose argument was rooted in my belief that Milton did write the de Doctrina. Bill's criticism was extremely helpful, and he recommended that the essay be published. I am deeply grateful for that typical expression of his large-mindedness. I will remember him with affection and admiration.
John Ulreich
February 21, 2006
Dr. Hunter was my teacher and mentor when I was at University of Houston. My favorite memories of my time at UH involve him, his excitement at his discoveries, his enthusiasm for literature, his relish for learning itself. I remember reading his reviews in the newspaper, signed as always “William B. Hunter, a student of literature.” Best of all were the seminars taught by other professors, particularly Dr. Sherry Zivley, in which Dr. Hunter participated along side the rest of us. I’ll never forget how eager and engaged he was in these classes, this astounding scholar who truly was a life-long student. I was lucky to be his student.
Audell Shelburne
February 21, 2006
To me, Bill Hunter was always a model of generosity and gentility. He also displayed great courage in taking a strong position against Milton's authorship of the work, De Doctrina Christiana, even when it meant undermining years of his earlier findings. We shall not see his like again.
Richard DuRocher
February 21, 2006
I met Bill at the International Milton Symposium in 1991, the same year that the Southeastern Conference on John Milton was launched. Since he knew the area around Murfreesboro, Bill made a point of looking me up and telling me that he was coming to the conference. He attended faithfully every year until his health prevented his coming. He was a wonderful scholar, a wonderful human being, and a wonderful friend. Thanks Bill for all the good you did for so many years.
Charley Durham
February 21, 2006
Although I did not know Professor Hunter personally, I certainly know of his work despite my being a recent 'convert' to Milton studies. From everything that I have heard, and also what I have read here, he must have been a very impressive man of multiple talents and warm integrity.

My condolences to the family.
Horace Jeffery Hodges
February 21, 2006
I only knew him through his terrific published work, which enriched my teaching and made him also a teacher of my students. Flights of angels.
Cynthia Gilliatt
February 21, 2006
I did not know him very well personally, but like most Miltonists I know his work. I hope that we in the next generations can be so productive.
Jameela Lares
February 20, 2006
nobody could ever say a bad thing about Bill. people like him are hard to come by. he was funey, smart, and plesent to be with. his passing will be mourned by all.
Jonathan reeve
February 17, 2006
Bill was an original thinker who, unlike many original thinkers, was prepared to revisit and rethink his earlier work. He asked the right questions. An immensely learned and generous scholar.
Thomas Corns
February 16, 2006
I will miss this man and his wonderful mirth. We had great conversations, and I always enjoyed our time together.
Paul Lundberg
February 16, 2006
I first met Bill Hunter in 1958. From that time on I have always seen him as one of the wonders of the American academic world---learned, profound, witty and unaffected. I'll miss him.
Tom Kranidas
February 16, 2006
Bill Hunter was a prince of a guy, and a mental prince among Miltonists. May all the pastures dance with lambs.
Joseph Wittreich
February 16, 2006
I was privileged to know Bill for many years and recall fondly his wit, his candor, and his unfailing support. He will be missed.
Paul Parrish
February 16, 2006
What does one say with the loss of one's best and longest friends? Your life "To God more glory, more good will to Men" continues though you are no longer with us, "Working through love."
John T. Shawcross
February 16, 2006
W.B. Hunter spoke to me through his books in capacious and compassionate ways especially when I was a budding Miltonist at U.C. Berkeley in the early 1980s. While scholars debate the ethics of criticism, his worked were good ethics at work.
Angelica Duran
February 16, 2006
With the subject line, "Good night, sweet prince." I sent this to the Milton-L and SHAKSPER lists as soon as I heard the sorrowful news:

"I bear sad tidings.

On Saturday, the community of Milton scholars was bereaved of one of its most affable members, a scholar not only willing to share the fruits of his long labor in the vineyard, but quick to offer avuncular encouragement and guidance to least of us, and warm and witty and funny to the end.

William Bridges Hunter, Jr., A.B., Princeton University; M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, Southern gentleman and citizen of the world in the best sense of those terms, as well as editor of the original _Milton Encyclopedia_ on which so many of us cut our teeth, editor-by-default of V.7 of the YP, editor of _The Complete Poetry of Ben Jonson_, and author of _Visitation Unimplor'd_ (along with scholarly essays too numerous to mention), visionary, iconoclast, friend, and teacher left this world a little colder on Saturday, 11 February 2006.

He will be deeply mourned, and sadly missed, especially by those of us who had the good fortune to bask in his light."

My heartfelt condolences, Margaret and family. Bill was a dear, dear friend and a caring and loving mentor; I will miss him more than I can say.

I know that he was working hard on a collection of essays on "Midsummer Night's Dream," and wanted very much to publish them; I hope that you will allow his colleagues to do that in his honor, if possible.

Please remember him smiling. His grin could light up a stadium!

With love,

Carol Barton
February 16, 2006
Bill Hunter was my teacher, friend, and mentor. His presence added immeasurably to my life; his absence will be sorely felt. I will always remember his strength, his many kindnesses, and his wicked sense of humor. I was blessed to have had him in my life.
Vickie Hodges
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