Lawrence Kinnaird, History: Berkeley
Lawrence Kinnaird, a widely known and popular teacher of California history, died September 27, 1985 at the Community Hospital on the Monterey Peninsula. He was 92. A tall, distinguished figure, with a warm presence and a ready wit, Kinnaird made the history of California and the Southwest come alive to generations of students. His former graduate students are prominent in the teaching of California and western United States history throughout the country.
Kinnaird's long life began in Williamstown, West Virginia, on July 9, 1893. Much of his early life was spent on the family farm, but he studied at Marietta Academy across the river in Ohio. He earned an A.B. in chemistry at the University of Michigan in 1915, and began a professional career as principal of a high school in Kansas City, Kansas. Whatever his further plans, they were cut short by entry of the United States into World War I. The young Kinnaird joined the U.S. Army Air Force, trained as a pilot, and en route to France survived the torpedoing of his ship. In service in France he rose to the rank of first lieutenant. After the conclusion of hostilities he was able to pursue post-graduate studies at the University of Grenoble. He remained in the Air Force until 1921, his last post being Lake Charles, La., whence his later interest in Spain's role in the Mississippi Valley.
Upon discharge, Kinnard returned to the family farm for a year and then sold oil well equipment as a traveling salesman from Wyoming to Texas and to California. In the course of his travels, he made the acquaintance of Professor Herbert E. Bolton at Berkeley and was persuaded to turn to an academic career. In 1925 he enrolled as a graduate student in Bolton's famous history seminar on California, the West, and the Americas. Soon he became one of the prominent members of the Knights of the Round Table, so called from the sessions around the round table, inherited from Henry Morse Stephens. Kinnaird earned his M.A. in 1927 with a thesis on Anglo-American expansion into the Louisiana country, 1763-1810, a
― 153 ―topic that neatly combined the elements of frontier history and the Spanish in the Mississippi Valley. The doctorate followed quickly in 1928 with a thesis on American penetration into Spanish territory to 1803.
Unfortunately the economic crisis of 1929, which struck shortly thereafter, made an academic position difficult to obtain. Undaunted, in 1929 he married Lucia Fuller Burk in what was to be a long, happy marriage and supported himself as a research assistant and research associate in history. In 1932 he received appointment as an assistant professor at San Francisco State College, where he served until 1936, rising to the rank of associate professor. In that year he chose to move to the then College of Agriculture at Davis as an assistant professor again. One year later he was called to the Department of History on the Berkeley campus as a colleague of his revered Professor Bolton. He was to serve here until retirement. In 1940 he became associate professor and in 1948 professor.
Meantime, in 1941 the United States entered World War II. Kinnaird was asked to become Assistant in Cultural Relations at the United States Embassy in Santiago, Chile. Obtaining leave of absence, he and his wife went to Santiago for three years while Bolton returned to active duty as his replacement. During his stay in Santiago, Kinnaird served as chairman of the United States delegation to the Fourth Inter-American Congress of Teachers. As the war moved to its conclusion, Kinnaird returned to Berkeley and academic life.
His major teaching and research interests always centered upon the Mississippi Valley during the Spanish period and California. He translated and edited three volumes of documents, published by the American Historical Association as Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 1768-1794 (Washington, D.C., 1946-1949). Much of his early writing dealt with Spain and Anglo-American penetration in the Mississippi Valley, 1763-1803. One essay on the Spanish tobacco monopoly in New Mexico, 1766-1767, moved to a theme of the Southwest. In later years his interests broadened. He published in 1958 an English translation and critical edition of the inspection of the northern frontiers of New Spain by Nicolás Lafora, 1766-1768. The folding map attached to it is a noteworthy reconstruction of locations of obscure settlements. In the 1960s he wrote a history of the Golden Gate for the National Park Service and a three-volume history of the Greater San Francisco Bay Region (1966); in a style reminiscent of Hubert Howe Bancroft, volume 3 is devoted to family and personal history. Many of his articles were in joint authorship with his wife, herself holder of a doctorate in political science.
As a teacher Kinnaird was justly famous. The successor of Bolton in teaching the history of the Americas, his undergraduate classes were crowded as were his seminars at the round table in the Doe Library. His cordial approach, kindly manner, and common sense endeared him to students.
― 154 ―When he reached retirement age in 1960, he was invited to the Santa Barbara campus, where he taught for five years with a year interval as visiting professor at Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pa. After final retirement in 1966, he and his wife settled in Carmel, where she still lives.
When Lawrence Kinnaird died at the advanced age of 92, few members of the faculty on the Berkeley campus remembered him; he had outlived most of his contemporaries. His memory remains vivid in the minds of his many students and perhaps most of all his numerous former graduate students around the country.
Woodrow Borah Lincoln Constance Lawrence A. Harper