College mourns passing of Carleton Mabee, professor emeritus of history


Just days shy of his 100th birthday, Carleton Mabee, a well-known and highly regarded professor emeritus of history at SUNY New Paltz, died on Dec. 18 at his home in Gardiner, N.Y.

A prolific author, Mabee won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1944 for “American Leonardo: The Life of Samuel F.B. Morse.” In this work, Mabee assessed the incredible contribution Morse made to American science and art, while also taking an unflinching look at the more disagreeable aspects of his character.

Mabee was the author of numerous other books about people and places, including several focusing on the history of the Hudson Valley. His works include “Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend,” co-authored with his daughter and published in 1965, and “Promised Land: Father Divine’s Interracial Communities in Ulster County, New York.” Mabee’s writing touched on a broad array of social issues, including land conservation controversies in the Hudson Valley.

Revered among local historians for his portrayal of Hudson Valley history, Mabee’s impact on the community was felt by many. Mourners filled New Paltz United Methodist Church on Dec. 20, 2014 to celebrate and pay tribute to his life.

Mabee earned an undergraduate degree from Bates College and a doctorate in history from Columbia University, developing a specialty in American social history. Before joining the New Paltz faculty in 1965, he taught in Michigan, Indiana and at Clarkson University. He retired in 1984 but remained actively engaged with the department, the College and the region. His many contributions to local culture include his service as town historian for Gardiner, where he had resided for many decades.

Mabee married Norma Dierking in 1945 and the two were together until her death in 2004. His survivors include their two children, Timothy I. Mabee and Susan Mabee, along with two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren.