By Tony Williams
Last week, I was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of BRI scholar and friend, Gordon Lloyd.
When I shared the news on social media, I was struck by how many lives he had touched as a scholar, a teacher, and a person. Many of the people who commented or reached out were teachers who studied with him across the country.
Gordon was a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, but his reach was dramatically wider than a single university.
He was a leading authority on the American Founding. He edited books on the Constitutional Convention, the Antifederalists (read his books for why he did not use a hyphen!), and the Bill of Rights.
But what teacher out there does not know about his Four-Act Play on the Constitutional Convention?
Gordon was deeply committed to civics education and participated in countless teacher programs at the Bill of Rights Institute, Ashbrook Center, Liberty Fund, and the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Program, to name a few.
Indeed, I studied and worked with Gordon in several of these programs. In the early 2000s, I was teaching in Columbus, Ohio and attended numerous Saturday and summer seminars at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. I took a course with Gordon and Christopher Flannery on the Constitutional Convention and ratification, where I read James Madison’s Notes for the first time.
Reading the Notes and discussing them with expert guidance was instrumental in understanding the arguments and debates during the summer of 1787. I examined other Founding documents with Gordon at additional Ashbrook weekend colloquia.
After I joined the Bill of Rights Institute in 2014, I was pleased to work frequently with Gordon. He was one of our main Discussion Leaders for our co-sponsored Liberty Fund teacher colloquia, particularly a program on slavery and the Founding. The knowledge of the Convention and ratification debates, the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitution, and Abraham Lincoln was encyclopedic and of great benefit. We would chew on a single word for half an hour but also take a broad perspective during the sessions.
More importantly, he treated me and every teacher who attended the program as a colleague. He invited conversation and evidently took genuine delight in the discussion. He enjoyed the company of the teachers for hours into the evening after dinner with a glass of red wine in front of him. Gordon epitomized what it meant to be a scholar and gentleman and was a model of civil conversation.
Gordon has contributed to Bill of Rights Institute curricula over the years. Most recently, he wrote essays for the U.S. history resource, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. His mark was profoundly left in ways that cannot be measured.
Our work examining a large packet of primary sources, listening to Gordon’s teaching, and engaging in conversation with teachers and scholars shaped much of the thinking that went into our latest curriculum, Slavery and the Founding. Our work with Gordon will continue to influence Bill of Rights Institute resources for many years to come to the benefit of countless teachers and students.
We will miss Gordon terribly. The highest compliment we can give him is that he was a great teacher.
Tony Williams is a Senior Teaching Fellow with the Bill of Rights Institute.