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Founder Of UM African-American Studies Program Dies

Ulysses Doss
Todd Goodrich
Ulysses Doss founded UM's African-American Studies program in 1968.

The founder of one of the nation’s first Black studies programs, based in Montana, died this weekend. Ulysses Doss created what the University of Montana now calls the African-American Studies program.

Tobin Miller Shearer says Doss always carried himself with a palpable gravitas.

“He entered a room and people paid attention.”

Shearer is the current director of UM’s African-American Studies Program which Doss founded over five decades ago after what was meant to be only a brief visit to Missoula.

“He brought forward the history of his involvement with the civil rights movement and made it relevant in any era in which he spoke,” Shearer says.

That history included close friendships with activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and community activist Saul Alinsky.

Shearer says Doss was the rare individual who could speak with sophistication and nuance about not only Black history, but broader issues of contemporary American race relations.

According to his friends, Doss passed away Sunday at the age of 88 after a lengthy struggle with health difficulties.

Memorial arrangements are pending.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at