Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. ’47

Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. '47

Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr., 94, died March 17, 2021.

He was born October 13, 1926 in Morven, NC to Charles Edward Ratliff, Sr. and Mary Katherine Ratliff.

The son of a cotton farmer, he graduated from Davidson College in 1947 and earned his PhD from Duke University.   He served as an Aviation Supply Officer in the US Navy from 1944-46.  

One of the longest-tenured members of the Davidson College faculty, he taught Economics, spanning six decades, from 1947 until his retirement in 1992.  He devoted his life to teaching and serving others, for four years in the 1960s, he served as an educational missionary at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan. 

Seeing the abject poverty in Pakistan led him to his involvement in many non-profit organizations including:  Habitat for Humanity, CROP, the Davidson Housing Coalition, Bread for the World, Mecklenburg Ministries, and Rural Advancement/National Sharecroppers Fund. 

He was very active in the Davidson United Methodist Church serving on numerous conference boards.

Following retirement, he and wife Mary Virginia moved to Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland Florida, joining many of their close friends from their days in Pakistan.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Virginia.

Survivors include his wife Ruth Miller and his children, Alice, Kate, John and his wife Kathy, and four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be at a later date.

Memorials may be made to Davidson Housing Coalition or the Ratliff Endowment for Economics at Davidson College.

One Reply to “Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. ’47”

  1. Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr., William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Economics

    October 13, 1926 to March 17, 2021: 94 years of age
    Associated with Davidson College: Fall 1943 until his death: 78 years of service

    Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. died peacefully on March 17, 2021 at 94 years of age.

    Charlie arrived at Davidson College in 1943 as a student, joined the Navy, then returned to Davidson College, graduating with his class in 1947. By the ensuing fall, his talent and devotion recognized, he was already teaching accounting and economics, before the age of 21!

    Let me try to describe this unique individual. As Shelley told me, even in two hours, I could not fully give justice to Charlie. Yet, I hope you go away today realizing that Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. was an individual of extraordinary commitment to justice and of love for others; AND a person whose contributions to Davidson and the broader world were of extraordinary breadth and impact.

    In the early 1950s the Dean of Faculty, an economist, Dr. C.K. Brown sent him to Duke University to receive his Ph.D. in economics. He then returned to Davidson and his teaching, spanning six decades. What did he do?

    –He literally parented the modern economics department at Davidson College, introducing Keynesian macroeconomics and other needed subjects.

    –He taught with a knowledge, a commitment, and a rigor that is rarely matched. He justifiably received the inaugural Hunter Hamilton Love of Teaching Award in 1992. Despite his well-known rigor and difficult grading, he was revered as a teacher.

    –He and Mary Virginia received scores of international students, many from his beloved South Asia into their home. These students’ expressions of love and gratitude since his passing will bring tears to your eyes.

    –With his family he lived in Pakistan for four years in the 1960s, teaching economics at Forman Christian College in Lahore. He developed a deep commitment to efforts and programs for international development. His last major professional work was a book advocating an international development fund to transfer assistance to low-income countries.

    –Here at Davidson he was a leader in the integration of international area studies into our curriculum, himself focusing on South Asia.

    –He led the effort for non-Presbyterians to be eligible to serve as full professors at Davidson College, reversing a decades-old antiquated requirement.

    –He helped lead the effort to provide affordable housing for all citizens of Davidson, helping found and then working with The Davidson Housing Coalition.

    –Countless groups received the benefit of his time, his knowledge and his resources: Habitat for Humanity, Bread for the World, Rural Advancement/National Sharecroppers Fund, CROP, and the Davidson United Methodist Church.

    –Finally, all felt the warmth of his greeting, his sincere concern for their well-being, and the personal humility he displayed.

    Yes, my friends, that was Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr.: an individual of extraordinary commitment to justice and of love for others; AND a person whose contributions to Davidson and the broader world were of extraordinary breadth and impact. May he rest in a well-deserved peace.

    Clark G. Ross, Frontis W. Johnston Professor of Economics, April 6, 2021

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