Melvin Tucker

Published February 25, 2019

Melvin J. Tucker, professor emeritus of English, died Feb. 15 in Hospice Buffalo. He was 87.

A specialist in English Tudor history, Tucker joined the UB faculty in 1963 as an assistant professor of English and European history. He served as director of graduate studies in the Department of History from 1979-85, and retired in 2005.

His landmark research into Tudor poet John Skelton, published in 1969, determined that Skelton’s most famous work, “The Garland of Laurel,” was written much earlier than previously thought — in the 1490s, not the 1520s — and as a result, the noblewomen mentioned in it had been incorrectly identified.

His first book, “The Life of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Second Duke of Norfolk, 1443-1524,” published in 1964, was cited by author Richard Marius for the help it provided in writing his definitive biography of Sir Thomas More.

Tucker helped pioneer the study of childhood throughout history, teaching a popular seminar on the subject and contributing a chapter, “The Child as Beginning and End: 15th and 16th Century English Childhood,” in the 1974 book “The History of Childhood.”

He also was an early practitioner of meditation and co-authored a book, “Centering: Your Guide to Inner Growth,” with Saunders G. Laurie in 1978.

He was the author of more than 100 book reviews, mostly for the library journal Choice. Other reviews appeared in the American Historical Review, Albion, Cithra, Journal of Modern History, Renaissance Quarterly and Speculum.

He received numerous academic honors, research grants and fellowships.

He was a contributing editor for History of Childhood Quarterly and The Journal of Psychohistory, and was a council member for the Association for Bibliography of History.

Born in Easthampton, Mass., Tucker earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1953, and a master’s degree in history from UMass in 1954. He then served for two years as an Air Force lieutenant in Japan, taking courses at Sophia University in Tokyo.

He went on to receive his doctorate in history from Northwestern University in 1962, having studied with two masters in the field: Lacy Baldwin Smith at Northwestern and S.T. Bindoff, his mentor, at Queens College, University of London, which he attended under a Fulbright scholarship in 1958-59.

Before joining the UB faculty, Tucker taught European history at Colby College and humanities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.