Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Posthumous Anthology Released For Tech History Professor

Tennessee Tech History Professor Michael Birdwell’s lifelong dedication to history now memorialized in a posthumously released anthology.

Associate History Professor Troy Smith worked on the book alongside Birdwell before Birdwell passed in March of 2022 following a 15-year battle with cancer. Smith said Birdwell was the world’s leading authority on Alvin C. York and several other pieces of World War I-era history. He said it was extremely important to give people access to the information and to the stories.

“So now, finally, here it is,” Smith said. “A couple of years after Dr. Birdwell passed away, but I think, almost the ideal memorial to his work because both Tennessee and World War I were extremely important topics to him.”

Smith said the project began in 2015 when Birdwell was put in charge of the state-wide World War I centennial commemoration. Progress slowed in 2020 due to publishing delays, but Smith said he and Dean of History Jeff Roberts were dedicated to finishing the project that Birdwell had started.

“It means more than I can say,” Smith said. “Dr. Birdwell was my history professor 20-something years ago and then I was able to become his colleague and he became one of my best friends. One of my best friends in my life. And it was a great honor for me to be able to be a part of this.”

Smith said he penned a chapter about the role of African Americans in the war. He said in his final year, Birdwell won the Tennessee Tech Diversity Advocate Award for his work with the African American community.

“I think he wrote at least a couple of chapters himself,” Smith said. “A couple of the essays in there. He also asked us to do some interstitial pieces like short pieces about significant Tennessee figures from the period.”

Smith said in the final months of Birdwell’s life, he often talked about all of the projects the two of them might tackle next. He said Birdwell died shortly after the piece became ready for print, but “Tennessee’s Experience During the First World War” is now available for purchase in bookstores and shared on the University of Tennessee Press website.

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