Dr. Howard Florian Mahan, founding chair of the department of history at the University of South Alabama, died Saturday, June 30, at a local hospital.
Mahan, 88, was chair of the University’s department of history from 1963 until 1983. Mahan came to Mobile in 1954 as a faculty member at the University of Alabama Extension Division where he worked with the late Dr. Frederick P. Whiddon, USA’s first president, to help establish the University of South Alabama.
“Dr. Howard Mahan was among a small group of early faculty members who were pioneers in the establishment of a tradition of academic excellence at the University of South Alabama that continues to benefit students to this day,” said USA President Gordon Moulton.
“Dr. Mahan touched countless lives over the years as a teacher, a scholar, and as an advocate for the understanding and preservation of our history. The USA family will certainly miss him.”
Mahan also founded the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile shortly after arriving in Mobile.
A native of New York City, Mahan grew up in nearby New Jersey. He interrupted his undergraduate studies in science and engineering at Drew University to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Following a full tour as a navigator on bombing missions over Europe, he returned to his studies at Drew University. He decided to study history as a better way of understanding the war that he and the world had endured. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he continued graduate studies at Columbia University where he received his doctorate in U.S. history. After nearly 40 years of teaching U.S. history in Mobile, he retired in 1993.
With the generous support of the University of South Alabama Foundation and Whiddon, the Howard F. Mahan Lecture was established in honor of Mahan’s enduring contributions to his students, colleagues, community and state. Each year, a prominent scholar visits USA to deliver a major address on a timely topic.
Mahan is survived by his wife, Dr. Betty Brandon, Daphne, Ala.; three daughters, Melissa Mahan, Fairhope, Ala.; Susan Mahan, Mobile, Ala.; and Deborah Phillips, Mandeville, La.; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
The family plans a memorial service on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 6345 Old Shell Road, Mobile. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that remembrances be made to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile or the University of South Alabama Foundation.