Affiliate(s): Southwestern Social Science Association

Joe Stewart was a prince among the people who knew him.  He was an unlikely prince, to be sure.  Joe was unassuming. He tended to see humor in everything, sometimes even when others of more serious bearing found his humor inappropriate.  He was immensely talented, producing insightful and important research, though not at the rate that critics might ascribe to top members of the discipline.  Yet, Joe was a prince.

He never met a stranger. More importantly, when he met someone a second time, he not only remembered their name, but immediately took them in as if a sibling.  Having no sibling of his own, Joe looked for ways to assist his “chosen” family members, to root with empathy for their success, and to place them in a position where they might thrive. Joe took immense satisfaction from the accomplishments of those he had adopted as friends.

Joe’s passion was for human rights and the dignity of all people.  A native of the South, Joe hated the legacy of racism and inequality.  He developed a passion for a vision of a nation where the content of people’s character was all that mattered in measuring their worth.  He took seriously the question that became the title of his co-authored (with Paula McClain) book Can We All Get Along?

Joe was an educator by choice and by nature.  He had a love of seeing his charges go far in life and took great pride in his “chosen” children.  His lecture style was understated and conversational, displaying an infectious depth of curiosity about human political behavior delivered with a distinctive soft drawl.  He took that beyond the classroom into a commitment to sponsor quality education through the Advanced Placement program of the College Board and Educational Testing Service and through the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program.

Of course, Joe had a legendary sense of humor, an outward expression of his optimism about human nature.  He and his colleague Ken Meier gave great comedy and parody of academia to their article “Rotisserie Political Science.”  And he sponsored a memorable panel at an academic conference on the impact of Elvis Presley on political science.  Joe’s humor was one of true delight in the human condition, never intended to disparage, but rather to uplift.

Joe’s premature death should be noted, though he would never want to draw attention to himself.  He often remarked that he had gotten more from life than he ever thought he would—earned a salary higher than he ever thought possible and worked in air-conditioning rather than on top of a roof somewhere.  He would insist that we raise a glass and offer an inappropriate expression of humor in his memory.  And to do all we can to rectify injustice in the world, mostly by connecting one to another at every opportunity along the way.