Paul Longmore

September 17, 2018 Sue Rorke

Paul Longmore passed away on August 9, 2010 at the age of 64. He was a leading disability scholar and activist. Valerie J. Nelson of the LA Times writes “Unable to use his hands because of a childhood bout with polio, Paul K. Longmore wrote his first book by punching a keyboard with a pen he held in his mouth. It took him 10 years, and when he was done, he burned a copy in front of the Federal Building downtown.” Ms. Nelson’s complete article was published August 15, 2010.

Paul Longmore was one of the leading scholars of disability studies and one of only a small but growing cadre of historians studying disability. He was Associate Professor of History at San Francisco State University, where he also served as Director of the newly-established Institute on Disability. Although Dr. Longmore is widely known in the disability community for his extensive publication and speaking on disability, his original specialty is in early American history. His book, The Invention of George Washington (University of California Press, 1988) studies Washington as a political actor and the conscious way in which he shaped his public image. In addition to early American history and disability history, Dr. Longmore has taught courses in U.S. intellectual and cultural history and political theory.San Francisco State University’s Institute on Disability is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It has a multi-disciplinary objective. It aims to develop a more comprehensive disability studies curriculum, launch community service projects, and support disability-related research projects, including assistive technology, that will have local, national, and international impact. Dr. Longmore brings considerable experience to his role as Director. From 1983 to 1986, he served as the administrator of the Program in Disability and Society at the University of Southern California, a pioneering disability-studies project.

Like many people with disabilities, Longmore originally distanced himself from issues of disability and disabled individuals. His interest in disability as an academic subject did not come until he neared completion of his Ph.D. in history from the Claremont Graduate School in 1984. Since then, however, Dr. Longmore has published widely on the history of the disability rights movement and the representation of people with disabilities in the media. He is also a leading voice in advocating an academically-respected field of disability studies. Dr. Longmore’s expertise has been called upon by ABC’s Nightline, ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC’s Today Show, and National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, as well as in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, McCall’s, and TV Guide. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, an H.B. Earhart Foundation Research Fellowship, and the Claremont Graduate School Alumni Award. –from the NPR archives by Jonathan Young.