The Tennessee Tech community mourning the loss of prominent history professor Michael “Birdie” Birdwell this week.
Chief Communication Officer Karen Lykins said Birdwell impacted thousands of students over his some 25 year career at the university.
“He was a hard worker,” Lykins said. “Really put in the work and the time to be excellent. He was a mentor, a co-author and a very beloved friend, but you can’t write the history of Tennessee Tech now with out Birdie being a part of it.”
Birdwell earned two degrees from Tennessee Tech and returned as an adjunct professor in 2000. Birdwell is also a part of Upper Cumberland history for his research of WWII Sergeant Alvin C. York and documentation of the region’s culture.
“He was the one trusted to be the curator of the Alvin C. York papers. He served as the archivist for that collection since 1997,” Lykins said. “That work opened the door to research the Warner Brothers did and continued the train of thought to document everything we needed to remember of Alvin C. York. He also was a part of Historic Architecture of the Upper Cumberland book. He documented the rural life and culture. Also a book called The People of the Upper Cumberland.”
Birdwell passed away late Sunday evening. Birdwell donated his body to science and requested donations to go to Tennessee Tech’s History Department or WCTE. A celebration of life will be announced at a later time.
Birdwell presented at 100 conferences, wrote more than 30 articles and chapters and produced over 250 scholarly and popular works. Between 2016 and 2019, he chaired the Tennessee State Review Board for the National Register of Historic Places, the Tennessee Preservation Trust, and the Tennessee Great War Commission. At the time of his death, he had five books in the works.