Profile: John T. McCartney
When professor John McCartney lectured to his students about the political struggles of The Bahamas he was not simply relaying facts from textbooks. He had played a part in the history that he taught. McCartney knew first-hand what he was teaching.
McCartney, who passed away last month in Easton, Pennsylvania, was in the trenches of government reform after The Bahamas gained its independence from Great Britain in 1973.
He helped form the Vanguard Nationalist and Socialist Party in 1972, and was a two-time candidate for Parliament in the 1977 and 1982 general elections. McCartney served as chairman of the party, which he had described as the only political party that addressed “not only race but the fundamental issues of society”.
McCartney left The Bahamas in 1961 to attend college and graduate school in the U.S., and in 1970 he earned a Ph.D in political science from the University of Iowa and began teaching at Purdue University. But he always kept a keen eye on the political happenings in his home country.
In 1979 he decided to return to Nassau to focus full time on politics, and for the next three years he would devote his time to the Vanguard Party. After disappointing results in the 1982 general election, the party eventually disbanded, and McCartney accepted a job at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania a few years later.
McCartney had said he never regretted his political involvement.
“I don’t know if I’d feel complete if I hadn’t tried,” he was quoted as saying in a college interview.
John Talmadge McCartney was born on November 2, 1938 in Nassau. He was the oldest of 10 children born to John B. McCartney and Margaret McCartney (nee Major).
McCartney was an avid reader and recognized the importance of education. He graduated from St. John’s College in 1956. After graduating he worked as a customs officer, until 1961, when he left for college in the U.S.
He attended Drake University in Iowa, graduating in 1964 with a BA in history (honors). He obtained a master’s degree from the University of Detroit Mercy, and received his Ph.D in political science from the University of Iowa in 1970.
He valued education and learning and thought that it was the means to succeed in life.
After leaving the Vanguard Party, McCartney focused his passion for politics on his students.
A political theorist, McCartney was a professor of government and law and former chair of the African studies program at Lafayette, which he helped develop. He joined the faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1982 and full professor in 2002. He served as head of the government and law department from 1998-2007.
At Lafayette, he was well respected and liked by students and faculty alike. His students knew him for his signature quote, “Master the material.”
His areas of special interest and expertise included black politics and political thought, Latin America and the Caribbean, and African politics.
McCartney taught courses on topics such as: black political thought in America, African politics, politics of the Caribbean and Latin America, comparative politics, among others.
He is also the author of “Black Power Ideologies: An essay on African American Political Thought”. He was co-editor of “The Struggle for Freedom in The Bahamas”. McCartney also wrote scores of articles and book reviews on black thinkers, politicians, ideas and issues.
His honors at Lafayette included Aaron O. Hoff Superior Teaching Award, Marquis Teaching Award, Nominee for U.S. Professors of the Year Award (2005), Jones Lecture Award, and the Sears Roebuck Superior Teaching Award.
McCartney met his wife, Nurse Leona Janet McCartney (nee Greene) in 1961 as a patient at Princess Margaret Hospital. They eventually married on July 22, 1969 and had two children; son, John N. McCartney and adopted daughter, Anja N. Moss (nee McCartney).
McCartney became ill at the end of the 2011 fall semester. He was eager to beat his illness and return to his teaching duties. He passed away March 28, 2012.
•Lafayette.edu was used as a source for this article.
Apr 30, 2012