Daniel Grant (1923–2022)
Daniel R. Grant became a prominent educator in the second half of the twentieth century. Like his father, he served as president of what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County).
Daniel Ross Grant was born on August 18, 1923, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to James R. Grant and Grace Sowers Grant. He received his early education in Arkadelphia, where his father, after a five-year stint as president of what is now Arkansas Tech University, began serving as president of Ouachita Baptist when Grant was nine years old.
Grant graduated with honors from Arkadelphia High School in 1941; with a major in history, he graduated from Ouachita Baptist in 1945. He earned an MA from the University of Alabama in 1946 and a PhD in political science from Northwestern University in 1948. He married Betty Jo Oliver in 1947. The couple had two daughters and a son. After Grant received his degree from Northwestern, the couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University as an assistant professor in political science and public administration.
Grant taught at Vanderbilt from 1948 to 1970. He co-authored with H. C. Nixon one of the country’s most widely used textbooks on state and local government, State and Local Government in America. The book remained a staple in college classrooms across the country, with the latest revised edition coming out in 1993. (Lloyd Omdahl was added as an author with the fifth edition in 1986.) In 1968, at the behest of the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Grant wrote a short volume titled The Christian and Politics, which sought to remind Christians of their responsibilities as citizens. Grant also served as the founding director of the university’s Urban Research Center and served as a consultant to many U.S. cities. Most notably, he served as a co-designer of the distinctive Nashville Metro government that was adopted in 1962. He was also the editor of the Journal of Politics in the early 1950s.
In 1970, Grant was approached by the search committee at Ouachita Baptist for the position of president. In looking back on his presidency, Grant recalled that the search committee had been forthright about the challenges that the new president would face: dangerously declining enrollment, a major deficit in the current operating budget and a similar projection for the coming year, very low faculty salaries as compared to national standards, and a need for massive building maintenance. The tumult of the era had also left the school suffering from reduced support from the Arkansas Baptist leadership, creating public relations problems and harming faculty morale. Grant—making a decision that one Vanderbilt colleague said was based on “God, father, and alma mater”—returned to OBU.
In fact, during Grant’s tenure, the university experienced tremendous growth both physically and in its programs. By the end of his tenure, the size of the graduating class had increased by more than a third, the honors program was expanded, and a number of endowed chairs were created in academic areas. Grant continued to be a practicing political scientist, initially teaching one course a year while also revising his classic textbook, producing an updated version during his presidency. Other highlights of his tenure included the creation of an international exchange program as well as the construction of numerous new buildings. Foremost among these were the Mabee Fine Arts Center, the Evans Student Center, the Eddie Blackmon Field House, and the Sturgis Physical Education Center. The Riley-Hickingbotham Library, a new campus drive, and a pedestrian bridge were also added during his tenure.
When he retired in 1988, Grant was succeeded by Ben Elrod. Grant went on to co-found the Consortium for Global Education and served as its president for ten years.
Grant died on May 25, 2022.
For additional information:
“A Brief History of Ouachita.” Ouachita Baptist University. https://www.obu.edu/about/history/ (accessed July 11, 2022).
Grant, Daniel R. “Political Science in Arkansas—Problems and Opportunities.” Speech delivered at the first meeting of the Arkansas Political Science Association, March 1, 1974.
Lawson, Felley. “Grant Remembered for Dedication to Integrating Academic and Christian Excellence.” Ouachita News. https://obu.edu/stories/news/2022/05/Daniel-r-grant-obituary.php (accessed July 11, 2022).
William H. Pruden III
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