Julian McIver Pleasants, 82, of Davidson, North Carolina passed away September 7, 2021 at The Pines at Davidson. Pleasants was born on November 12, 1938 in Moore Memorial Hospital in Pinehurst, North Carolina, son of the late James McIver Pleasants and Jean McIver Pleasants.
Raised in Sanford and Southern Pines, North Carolina, Julian graduated from Southern Pines High School in 1956. He played tennis and basketball for the Southern Pines teams, nicknamed “The Blue Knights.” For the remainder of his life, he was known to friends as “The Blue Knight” or just “Blue”. He earned a B.A. Degree from Davidson College in 1960 and continued his education with a M.A. in American History (1962) and in 1971, a Ph. D in American History from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Pleasants began his forty-six year teaching career as an Instructor at Converse College, Spartanburg, N.C. in 1962. Pleasants was an Instructor at the UNC History Department from 1967-1969 and spent one year, 1966-1967, as an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. In September 1969, he began a thirty-nine year career as a history professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. He retired as a full professor in 2008.
While at Florida, Pleasants taught over 10,000 students and won thirteen teaching awards including Teacher of the Year, Most Inspiring Professor at UF (1989) and one of Ten Outstanding Professors at UF (1974). He was the first Director of the Upward Bound Program at UF and for a brief period, served as Director of Minority Affairs. He later organized the Collegiate Scholars Minority Program at Florida and acted as the Director of the UF Overseas Program at Cambridge University in England in 1994.
Pleasants was one of the founders of the University of New Orleans-University of Florida Summer School in Innsbruck, Austria and functioned as Associate Director and Director from 1976-1992. The summer school is now in its 45th year and has educated over 10,000 students. He directed the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida from 2002-2008, helping the program achieve the status of one of the premier programs in the nation. Pleasants was a member of the Board of Presidential Counselors for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA from 2002-2009.
Pleasants wrote ten books, including: Hanging Chads: The Inside Story of the 2000 Presidential Recount in Florida; Frank Porter Graham and the Senate Election of 1950 In North Carolina; The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott, winner of the Ragan Old North State Award for best non-fiction book on N.C. during 2015; and Home Front: North Carolina During World War II. Also: Buncombe Bob: The Life and Times of Robert R. Reynolds; Seminole Voices: Reflections on Their Changing Society, with Harry Kersey. Awarded the Silver Medal for Non-Fiction, Florida Humanities Council, 2010 and the Harry T. Moore Award for Civil Rights Publications, Florida Historical Society, 2011; and Orange Journalism: Voices from Florida Newspapers. He acted as a consultant and script writer on the documentary, “Dr. Frank: The Life and Times of Frank Porter Graham.”
Pleasants was included in Who’s Who in America; Who’s Who in the World; and Who’s Who in International Education. He was awarded a Rotary International Fellowship for study in Australia in 1965-1966 and received an Award of Merit for outstanding service to the city of Innsbruck in 1985 and 1991. He served his country as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1962-1964.
Julian loved to travel and visited over 120 countries during his peripatetic wanderings. He was a devotee of Dixieland jazz, Springer Spaniels (Mandy and Sunshine), public television, reading, and college basketball. Most of all he treasured the many friendships he was fortunate enough to make during his lifetime and loved to reminisce about all the wonderful times spent with those special friends.
He is survived by his brother, James Rodney Pleasants and Rod’s husband, Steve Godwin. Also by his niece Jessica Pleasants Oncel, her husband, Okan Oncel, and their two children, Olive Rose and Leonardo James. Julian is also survived by his dear friends, Beth and Nick Mueller and their family.
In lieu of flowers, memorials should be directed to UNC-TV and Davidson College.
Condolences and memories may be shared at www.kepnerfh.com.
Published by Charlotte Observer on Sep. 12, 2021.