Biography and History

The life of Paul Dexter Tillett, Jr. (1923-1966) began on July 13 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His father, a salesman, and mother, a homemaker, later relocated the family to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He attended Wesleyan University (Class of 1944) where he received an A.B. with high honors and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, Tillett interned as an Information Specialist for the Presidentʼns Committee on Fair Employment Practice. He left Washington and earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1949. The following year, Tillett served as a research assistant in the Law College, University of Nebraska. In 1950, he became a research assistant in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He applied and was admitted to the graduate program at Princeton University, where he obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science in 1953 and 1957 respectively. While at Princeton, he received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for the 1952-1953 academic year and served as an instructor in the Political Science Department.

In 1957, Tillett was appointed to the teaching faculty of Douglass College, Rutgers University, where he also served as the Assistant Director of its Eagleton Institute of Politics. While at Eagleton, he edited a series of case studies in practical politics designed to bring actual political situations into the classroom. He received wide acclaim in 1965 for his five month television course entitled “A New Birth of Freedom: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties,” a part of WCBS televisionʼns Sunrise Semester program.

Tillett received a grant from the Louis Rabinowitz Foundation in 1961 to study the social costs of the loyalty investigations. In the course of conducting the study, he sought out people who had, in one way or the other, been involved with the anti-Communist frenzy of the 1950s. Among those he contacted was Herbert Aptheker of the American Institute for Marxist Studies. This association raised the suspicion of the F.B.I. which began to investigate Tillett in 1965. After discussing the study with Tillett and his colleagues, the F.B.I. concluded that Apethekerʼns role was purely academic.

On the morning of September 26, 1966, Paul D. Tillett, Jr. suffered a fatal heart attack. He left behind a wife and three children.

Source: From the finding aid for MC133

  • Paul D. Tillett, Jr. Papers. 1952-1979 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC133

    The Paul D. Tillett, Jr. Papers contain research material Tillett compiled for his study entitled, "Social Costs of the Loyalty Program." The never-published research contended that the loyalty-security programs of the federal government profoundly affected political and social institutions within the United States. In particular, Tillett asserted that the government initiated and executed the loyalty-security programs without regard for the long-term effects on individuals and institutions.