Archive for March, 2018

Richard L Simpson, 1929-2017


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It was with sadness tempered by relief that I learned of the final passing of Dick Simpson. I was privileged to have lunch with Ida Harper Simpson and her son, Bob, at the SSS meetings in Greenville last year. Ida was in great spirits, but disconsolate about Dick. He was gone, long ago. I wish Ida and her family all the best, and if anyone still reads this, you might think of dropping a few bucks in the fund in Dick’s honor.

Dick Simpson was a hard core work and occupations scholar. His many articles and books focused on work process, occupational trajectories, and the vagaries of occupational life. I most knew him because of his long-time editorship of Social Forces, including a stint from 1983-2003—I published 10 or so articles in Social Forces under Simpson’s direction, and he was always a fair and knowledgeable editor. It wasn’t easy for people working outside of the mainstream areas of stratification and work to get a fair hearing. Back then, it was generally acknowledged that if you did stuff on culture or religion, don’t even bother to send your papers to ASR or AJS. But Dick Simpson, despite being a straight-up work and occs person, would give you a fair hearing and find reviewers who were competent, and ignore reviewers who were overtly hostile religious (or anti-religious) lunatics. Were it not for the editorial diligence and fairness of Dick Simpson, I doubt that I would have made tenure at Vanderbilt, and I certainly wouldn’t have made tenure three years early.

Dick and Ida will always be people I remember as my academic forebears. They have helped me in many ways. Ida helped get me my job at Vanderbilt, and they both introduced me to important figures in the field. It was through Ida and Dick that I met Bill Form and Joan Huber. It probably helped land me an interview at Ohio State (which I bombed), but more importantly I later connected with Bill, who has been an inspiration and role model for my career. Whenever I feel like shit, I can pull out his autobiography….I promised him I’d donate it to a library when he died, and I will, but I’m not done with it.

I hope Dick Simpson’s passing will cause on many to reflect their commitments to building sociology, and not simply their own careers. Dick never promoted himself, or amplified his storied history going back to the era of Rupert Vance. Never. You had to read Ida’s book on the SSS to even get a sense of how those relationships fit. He worked for others, for us all, for the discipline of sociology. I will miss him.