By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Longtime Palisadian, renowned historian and scholar Gary Nash died at the age of 88 on Thursday, July 29. The cause of death was colon cancer.
Nash spent time as a professor and director of the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA, and wrote more than 30 books on early American history, numerous publications and more.
While Nash said he didn’t start out knowing that he wanted to be a historian, he did grow up in Philadelphia, about 10 miles from Valley Forge, he said to the Palisadian-Post in 2005.
“The Revolutionary War sites were always a mystique,” he said at the time. “As a kid I saw earth fortifications or the log huts where the soldiers lived in 1777-78. And Philadelphia is certainly a history-sod city.”
Nash later went on to study at Princeton University on a scholarship and majored in history. After spending three years in the Navy, he returned to Princeton as a junior administrator and “developed an appetite for history,” going on to study for his Ph.D. His dissertation became his first book, “Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania 1681-1726.”
The Pacific Palisades resident spent years researching and studying the American Revolution from the perspective of the lesser-known heroes instead of the Founding Fathers, who most often dominate the “reigning master narrative.”
Those long-forgotten men and women from the middle and lower ranks of America made up most of the people of revolutionary America, Nash said: “Without their ideas, dreams and blood sacrifices, the American Revolution would never have occurred.”
He told the Post that Ebenezer MacIntosh was one of his Revolutionary War heroes—he was a poor shoemaker who led a crowd of Bostonians to riot in protest of England’s tightening control of the colonies in 1775.
This “shoemaker street general,” Nash said, harnessed the resentment that had been building against the king’s restrictive trade policies, a force that English supporters and colonial leaders would come to see they had sorely underestimated.
“Here was someone who was not long on the world stage, but who was very important at that particular moment of the war,” Nash said.
Nash’s books and works that followed continued to unearth pivotal players in early American history. In 1966, Nash accepted a position at UCLA and relocated to the West Coast.
While at UCLA, he became the founding director of the university’s National Center for History in the Schools where he worked for 20 years. Nash led efforts to diversify American history courses and upheld stories of nonwhite groups that were often excluded from history textbooks, according to the LA Times.
“When I joined the faculty at UCLA in 1966, there were 65 members in the department, including one woman and one African American man,” Nash said to the Post in 2005. “As the profession has been diversified, all sorts of new questions have come up and a mountain of scholarly work has followed.”
While at UCLA, he also co-directed the National History Standards Project, which included four years’ worth of input from teachers, historians, parents and educators to propose a national history curriculum for U.S. students, according to the LA Times.
Nash is survived by his wife, four children, nine grandchildren, a sister and a brother.
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