John Warfield
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Whether it was teaching students in his classroom or challenging the administration at the University of Texas, John Warfield lived life as an unapologetic crusader for racial and social justice, family and colleagues said Friday.

Warfield died Thursday of Parkinson's disease. He was 71 and had been residing at an assisted living facility in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Friends and family said Warfield left a lasting imprint on the university by helping to ease racial tensions left over from the 1960s and by igniting pride and instilling knowledge in his students.

Believing that education was the best way to derail segregation, he helped found Austin's first black community radio station, KAZI-FM, from his living room in 1982.

"There was just something burning in him always," said Jan Warfield, his former wife, who was married to him for 31 years. "He had the privilege of an education and someone looking out for him, so that's something he wanted to see other African Americans have. He was just adamant about it."

Warfield taught at the university for 26 years and was director of the Center for African and African American Studies there from 1973 to 1986.

In that position, he was sometimes a controversial figure, responsible for bringing guest speakers like Eldridge Cleaver, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, to campus, He often accused the university administration of racism, using some of his most pointed words after he was asked to resign as director of the center in 1986.

"Somebody may have gotten fed up with Warfield's mouth," he told the Daily Texan student newspaper after his resignation was requested.

Warfield was also outspoken about the small number of black students and faculty at a time when the university had just been integrated, said Edmund T. Gordon, a former colleague and co-director of the center..

"This was in an era of some tension and great change when there weren't many black folks on campus, and there still was a fair amount of controversy over our presence," Gordon said.

As a professor, Warfield helped start the Heman Sweatt Symposium, an annual summit to examine the state of African Americans in Texas. The summit was named in honor of Heman Sweatt, the first African American admitted into UT Law School. Sweatt applied for admission in 1946, but he was denied on the basis of race. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

Warfield was also instrumental in making African and African American history a "legitimate and academic pursuit," said Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at the University.

"That's what was so pivotal," Vincent said. "I think that's one of his legacies."

Former student James Gray, who is a radio programmer at KAZI, said he first met War-field in 1981, when he took his class on black American culture. At the time, Warfield was trying to start a community radio station.

Gray said Warfield's intention was to create a medium to educate both the black and majority communities.

Jan Warfield she and her then-husband stored radio equipment in their living room, until the station opened in 1982. She said they often paid bills for the station before paying their own.

Warfield was diagnosed with Parkinson's in the mid-1980s, but continued to teach until 2000, when he retired.

Jan Warfield said the disease had started to take its toll.

"Eventually it did slow him down, but he was moving so fast it slowed him down to ordinary speed," she said. "He was like lightning all the time."
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Oct. 27, 2007.
Memories & Condolences
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18 entries
April 16, 2010
Val and I are deeply sad to learn of John's death only today. We knew John and Jan so briefly in Austin in 1974 while I taught for one semester: but I think they were the only friends we made and we have never forgotten then. We send our sympathy and condolences to all John's family, from sunset, overlooking the English Channel.
Tom Raworth
January 21, 2009
Jan and Family, Just learned of the passing of Dr. Warfield. Your family was so helpful to us when we became newcomers to Austin.
You were the realtor that contracted our home on Darlington Ln. We will always remember the nice visits in your home. Thank you. God bless you and keep you forever in His care.
Charles M. & Carolyn S. Walker
September 4, 2008
My regards to the Warfield family. I was a student of Dr Warfield's at U Texas in the 70's. He brought a world of change in my life and the lives of my children as I taught them some of what I learned from him.
I think of him every day as the Obama campaign had gained so much strength. This weekend I am going to Kalamazoo to campaign. I know Dr Warfield's spirit is smiling down.
cynthia england
March 31, 2008
I was surprised and saddened to only recently find out about the passing of Dr. Warfield. Dr. Warfield's importance and legacy, not only for Black students but all students at UT, cannot be underscored. In fact, the level of his significance has yet to fully emerge as the students that he taught and nurtured solidify pivotal roles in society as parents, leaders in business and teachers. We will all spread and forward the knowledge and lessons he instilled in us. Njeri, Jabari and Jan you have my most sincere condolences.
Keir Worthy
January 22, 2008
I was blessed to know Mr. Warfield.
I still remember his laugh.
Edgar (Eddie) Tisdale
November 14, 2007
November 6, 2007
Rest in peace.
Henryk Zaleski (USN-Ret)
November 4, 2007
i am sure his soul is in peace there where it is. my prayers and my deep condolences to his family.
Altin Rizi
October 31, 2007
Mrs. Warfield, Jabari, & Njeri,
I am so sorry to hear about Mr. Warfield's death. You are in my thoughts and prayers. He was such a wonderful person. I have lots of good memories of him, he will be truly missed.
Lisa Bookman Curry
October 30, 2007
Jan, Jabari, Njeri: My love to all of you, and to my memories as John's UT student, Jan's frequent house guest, Jbari's partner at KAZI, and Njeri's friend and track teammate. I can hear John's rich voice and see his quick smile. We will toast his life this weekend in Detroit.
Paul Philpott
October 29, 2007
dear jan, jabari, jabari, njeri,
i am so sorry to hear about john's death. you are in my thoughts and prayers. he was such a special person. i have lots of memories of macalester and all the things that john did for the black students. it truly made a difference and will always be appreciated. your family was so supportive of us in austin too. i will never forget. know that i am thinking of you all at this difficult time.
karen kaufman-codjoe
October 29, 2007
You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Tanya Rollins
October 29, 2007
Jan, Jabari, and Jabari,
I'm so sorry to hear about John's death. I never met him but anyone that you, Jan, could spend a good portion of your life with, and Jabari, helped make you the man you are today, had to have been a phenomenal person. I only have the highest regard for both of you, and Little Jabari, as well. I consider myself lucky to have known you all. I've just been through the death of my mother in September, so I know the hurt you're feeling now. Please know that our (Charlotte, Sam, and Megan) thoughts are with you now and always. God bless.
Charlotte Horn
October 27, 2007
Dr. Warfield was a valuable part of the UT family. I feel very blessed to have been able to learn from him during my early collegiate years. My prayers are with the entire Warfield family.
Shawn Scott
October 27, 2007
Dr.Warfield was responsible for starting me on the journey to finding my African self.He will be missed,but he resides now with the other giants of our people.My heartfelt warmth and sympathy to his family.
Michael Watkins
October 27, 2007
Individuals are identified by their actions in life. Dr. Warfield was one of those individuals who's actions demonstrated his commitment and dedication for the betterment of the community. We are going to miss him and hopefully someone like John will follow his lead.
Eric Shropshire
October 27, 2007
He just said what needed to be said.
What h e said was true.
He will be missed and I am glad there are many students who will be able to carry it on!
May God bless his family and his memory!
October 27, 2007
Jan, Jabari and Jabari -- We are so sorry to hear about John's passing. We have great memories of our times together. Our hearts are with you. Surely John is in a much better place now and there is comfort in that thought. Much love to you and all your family! Jan, Lee & Jamie
Jan Friese
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