In 2003, John A. Powell ’77 and Paula R. Powell of Palo Alto, Calif., established this professorship to honor Kenan Professor Emeritus of Sociology John Shelton Reed, one of the most important writers, scholars and instructors of the American South.

“We believe that it’s important to honor Carolina’s outstanding scholars and teachers and have long been impressed with the joy with which Reed has approached the study of the South,” the Powells said. “It’s also important to retain and recruit outstanding faculty, and he leaves big shoes to fill.”

The Powells’ gift of $1,660,000 qualified for a matching state grant of $334,000 from the State of North Carolina Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund to create a $2 million endowed professorship designed to recruit or retain an instructor and scholar of the American South.

During Reed’s 31-year tenure at UNC, he helped establish and served as director of the University’s Center for the Study of the American South, directed the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science and founded the quarterly journal Southern Cultures.

A native of Kingsport, Tenn., Reed earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964 and a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University in 1971. He also holds honorary degrees from the University of the South and UNC-Wilmington.

Reed, who taught at UNC from 1969 to 2000, has written and edited more than a dozen books, including 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About the South. His articles have appeared in professional and popular magazines and journals, including Science, Southern Living and Oxford American.

Reed has lectured at more than 200 colleges in the U.S. and abroad. He was a Fulbright-Hays Visiting Senior Lecturer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Fulbright-Hays Distinguished Lecturer in India and a Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan elected Reed to the National Council on the Humanities, where he later served as chairman of the fellowships and seminars committee. He was also president of the Southern Association for Public Opinion Research and the Southern Sociological Society. He was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece at UNC in 1994 and received the Outstanding Southerner award from Southern Living magazine in 1998.

Novelist Lee Smith described Reed as “hysterically funny and the most astute observer of the South that we have.”

Portions taken from a winter 2004 Carolina Connections article by Chrys Bullard.

The John Shelton Reed Distinguished Professor:

Larry Griffin

2014 – Present: Elizabeth Engelhardt