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Lindon Barrett: “He Had a Tremendous Impact Here”
Friends, family and colleagues of Lindon Barrett, 46, a popular UCR English professor who was murdered in Long Beach in July, gathered for a memorial service Oct. 1 at the Alumni and Visitors Center.
They mourned not only for the loss of a friend, but also the loss of his nearly completed next book, for the loss of his impact in the growth of the department and the college, and for the way he modeled how to be black, gay and brilliant in the world of a traditional research university.
“You embodied the hope of renewal,” said an emotional Vorris Nunley, a colleague in the department, addressing his friend’s smiling photograph. “Your presence emancipated me, made me a little more free. Your queerness was not so much about your politics, but about your life. You carved out a space so that other people could say what they never thought they would say.”
Nunley was one of 14 people who spoke about a man who was mentored as a young man and turned around to be a devoted mentor to others. The final speaker was Barrett’s mother, who came to Southern California to attend ceremonies at UCR and at UC Irvine, where Barrett had been a professor before coming to the Riverside campus a little more than a year ago. She read letters her son had written to her, and to a favorite high school teacher.
Professor Keith Harris remembered his friend saying that he had found a welcoming home at Riverside, after bruising academic politics in Irvine.
“He was on the faculty for just a year, but he had a tremendous impact here,” said Katherine Kinney, professor and department chair and another friend of Barrett’s from their days in graduate school. Kinney was credited by several people for her grace and strength in the weeks after hearing about the murder. George Haggerty, a long time English professor at UCR, said “Thanks Katherine for bringing the department through the worst blow we’ve had in my 27 years on campus.”
Barrett earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees, all in English, from York University in Toronto, the University of Denver, and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. He specialized in 19th century and early 20th century African-American literature and culture. He wrote numerous journal articles and a book, “Blackness and Value: Seeing Double.” He was completing his second book, “Racial Blackness and the Discontinuity of Western Modernity.”
A 20-year-old man has been arrested in connection with Barrett’s death.