Dr. Bobby L. Lovett

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE,TN (TSU News Service) — Dr. Bobby L. Lovett, award-winning author, historian, and Professor Emeritus of Afro-American history at Tennessee State University, is being remembered as a trailblazing educator, civil rights advocate, and a pillar in the Tennessee historical community.

“Dr. Bobby Lovett made a lasting impression on his students, colleagues, and anyone who crossed his path,” President Glover said. “Dr. Lovett embodied our motto of think, work, and serve and took his role very seriously in cultivating young minds for future leadership and representing TSU.”

For more than 30 years Dr. Lovett served as professor of history at TSU until his retirement in 2011. For 10 of those years, he also served as dean of the then College of Arts and Sciences. 

A prolific writer, Lovett’s historical expertise led him to author more than eight books on American and African American History. His most recent book, A Touch of Greatness: A History of Tennessee State University, published in 2012, is part of series that examines the role of historically black colleges and universities throughout the civil right struggle and American history. His 2005 book, The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History, won the “Tennessee History Book Award” by the Tennessee Library Association and Tennessee Historical Commission.

Former colleague Dr. Learotha Williams described Lovett as a mentor and friend.

“I would not be at TSU were it not for Dr. Lovett,” said Dr.  Williams, associate professor of history, who said Lovett invited him to “look” at the position when it was open.

“In addition to teaching and his love for students, I think when it comes to what he meant to the city, he’s the father of black Nashville history; that is the stuff that he talked about. He was the guy that highlighted and said that we need to pay attention to this one, in order to understand Nashville.”

Lovett was a founding member of the Nashville Conference on African American History and Culture. Started in 1981, the conference brings together historians, educator, students, and other individuals interested in how African Americans shaped the history of Nashville and Tennessee.

He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, where he received his public-school education and completed Booker T. Washington High School. Lovett earned his B.A. at Arkansas A.M. & N State College (today’s University of Arkansas campus at Pine Bluff) and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Before coming to TSU, Lovett taught history courses in the Memphis Public School System (1969-1970) and at Eureka College (1970-1973).

Dr. Lovett was laid to rest on Friday, Dec. 29 in Woodlawn Memorial Park after funeral services at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill, in Nashville.