Robert Carter (Bob) Hayden Jr. died on Jan. 23. He was 84.
Through a life dedicated to the research, recording and teaching of African-American history, he imparted the words “know your history” to his family, friends, colleagues and students.
A passionate storyteller and teacher, he never told a story just to tell it but to hear what you had learned though his words. The importance and joy of lifelong learning are his legacy.
He was born in New Bedford on August 21, 1937, the son of Robert C. Hayden and Josephine W. Hayden. He graduated from New Bedford High School in 1955 and attended Boston University, receiving his bcahelor’s degree in 1959 and his master’s in 1961. He completed two post-graduate fellowships — one at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and another at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also held an honorary doctorate degree from Bridgewater State College.
He was active with creating and running educational opportunity programs. Instrumental in founding the Boston METCO program, he served as executive director from 1970-1973. In 1974, he moved to the Education Development Center in Newton and directed ethnic heritage studies projects for urban school districts. In 1980, he became the director of MIT’s Secondary Technical Education Project. From 1982 to 1987, he served as an assistant superintendent in the Boston Public Schools system.
Between 1994 and 1995, he was a scholar in residence at New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He served as president of Boston’s NAACP branch from 1986-1988 and received its distinguished service award in 2013.
He is well known for three pioneering works written in the 1970s on the history of African Americans in science, technology and medicine. From 1974 to 1983, he wrote a weekly column, Boston’s Black History, for the Bay State Banner newspaper. He was a contributing writer for the Dictionary of American Negro Biography (1982), the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (1995) and American National Biography (1999). In subsequent years he authored more than 20 publications on African-American history and culture.
From 1978 to 2006, he taught as a senior lecturer at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Northeastern University, Boston College and Lesley University.
As a Martha’s Vineyard resident, he served on the Oak Bluffs historical commission from 1998 to 2000 while leading African-American history tours of the Island. He was the national secretary of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and founding president of its Martha’s Vineyard branch.
In later years, he enjoyed playing golf, anything and everything that had to do with his grandchildren — especially taking them fishing and spending days at the beach, gravy and biscuits at Biscuits, meals at his favorite restaurant Chef Deon’s Kitchen, cooking and painstakingly combing Island shores for the perfect rocks to create his beach stone art.
He was the father of Dr. Deborah Hayden, Kevin Hayden, Esq. and Karen McAdams and the late Robert C. Hayden 3rd. He is survived by his brother William Hayden and his husband Ron Perkov; grandchildren James Hayden Hall, Ella and Sebastian McAdams, and Jordan and Carson Hayden; sons in law Glenn Camilien and Jeffery McAdams; and daughter in law Michelle Hayden. He also leaves behind a loving community of neighbors, fellow Islanders and many more who called him friend, mentor and teacher.
Donations can be made to The New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
A private service will be held on Monday, Feb. 7. It will be available for virtual attendance. Please visit davisofboston.com to attend.
A celebration of life will be held on Martha’s Vineyard on a date to be announced.
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