You can hear Dr. Proctor give his oral history HERE , detailing his life and accomplishments, courtesy of the University of South Florida Oral History Program.
The interview was conducted on August 25, 2002 by Dr. Mark Greenberg.
Samuel Proctor, born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1921, began his long and devoted association with the University of Florida in 1937 as an entering freshman. Proctor earned his B.A. from UF in 1941 at the age of twenty, and earned an M.A. with a 560-page thesis on Florida Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward in 1942 in only two semesters.
During World War II, Proctor worked at Florida’s Camp Blanding to combat illiteracy among American recruits, beginning a half-century career of teaching. After being honorably discharged in 1946, Proctor declined scholarships from Yale and Ohio State to return to the University of Florida. He changed his initial plans to attend the UF College of Law when Professor William Carleton (the namesake of Carleton Hall) convinced Proctor to help alleviate the postwar shortage of faculty members. His dissertation, finished in 1958, became a book celebrat ing UF’s 100th anniversary.
Dr. Proctor taught at his alma mater for a remarkable fifty years, starting in 1946. Proctor served as the first official University of Florida Historian and Archivist, and taught in the UF History Department. For decades, Proctor was one of the world's foremost scholars of Florida history. He was also a pioneer in the field of oral history. The UF Oral History Program at the University of Florida, which he established in 1967, is now one of the largest in the nation and has been renamed the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) in his honor. He authored or edited countless articles, publications, and books, including the history of the University of Florida.
During his tenure, Proctor held chairs as Distinguished Service Professor of History and Julian C. Yonge Professor of History. He served as the Director of the Center for Florida Studies and as the History Curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Proctor raised over $250,000 to help establish the UF Center for Jewish Studies, served as the editor of the Florida Historical Quarterly for forty years, and founded the UF Oral History Program in 1967.
As a board member of the National Register of Historic Places, Proctor helped preserve many of the historic buildings on campus and celebrated Gator history with his multiple publications. Through his extensive research, Proctor traced UF's origins to 1853, decades before the doors opened at the Gainesville campus in 1906. During 2003, UF celebrated its 150th anniversary, an observance that was made possible largely by Proctor's efforts that began more than 50 years earlier.
After retiring in 1993, Proctor continued his service as the FHQ editor and headed several university-connected committees for the University of Florida Alumni Association and University of Florida Foundation. He was an active member of several state and national committees and was a heavily sought-after lecturer, consultant, and expert witness. His many honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Historical Society, and he remained the official University of Florida Historian until his death in 2005.
Dr. Samuel Proctor passed away on July 10, 2005 after battling a mysterious virus for almost two years. He rallied often in the fight, demonstrating how “tenacious he was in his love of life,” as his longtime friend and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham recalled. Before he got sick, Professor Proctor still conducted interviews and maintained an office in Turlington Hall. Graham, the former Florida governor, senator and Proctor student who now lives in Miami Lakes, was among his oral history subjects, and continued to tape interviews with Proctor almost every time he came to Gainesville.
The Samuel Proctor Fellowship Fund in History Endowment was established in Proctor’s honor for graduate students in history, and provides graduate students, known as Samuel Proctor Scholars, with resources and support. Proctor was also instrumental in establishing the University of Florida’s Center for Jewish Studies, and the Samuel and Bessie R. Proctor Fund at UF is awarded in memory of his wife to undergraduate students majoring in Jewish Studies.
Proctor’s research, dedication and guidance of multiple programs ensured his lasting legacy. The Center for Jewish Studies has graduated over 100 students since 1987, the Florida Historical Quarterly continues as a well-respected journal, and at the University of Florida, the Samuel Proctor Endowment aids the history department’s graduate students. Finally, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program has one of the largest archives of interviews in the Southeastern United States, many of which Proctor conducted. SPOHP is dedicated to building on Dr. Proctor's legacy. In 2005, Department of History professor David Colburn remarked that, “no one has done more to advance the history of the state and the University of Florida.”
In 1998, for a special project, a leading Florida newspaper, The Lakeland Ledger, gathered a distinguished panel of judges from throughout the state. They chose Samuel Proctor as one of the “50 Distinguished Floridians of the 20th Century.”
Historians across Florida continue to honor his legacy and accomplishments. A book of original historical essays, titled “Florida's Heritage of Diversity: Essays in Honor of Samuel Proctor,” which was published in his memory and dedicated to him by distinguished Florida historians in 1997. The final essay was devoted to his life and work.
"Napoleon Bonaparte Broward: Florida's Fighting Democrat"
Samuel Proctor, University Press of Florida, 1993.
"Tacachale: Essays on the Indians of Florida and Southeastern Georgia during the Historic Period"
Jerald T. Milanich and Samuel Proctor, University Press of Florida, 1994.
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