William A. Dobak

Friday, September 23, 2022 6:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

William A. Dobak was born on June 22, 1943. In 1966 he graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. in International Affairs. From there he crossed the Missouri River and undertook graduate studies at the University of Kansas. During the academic year he served as a copy editor at American Studies; for three summers he worked as a seasonal ranger at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. At the Newberry Library in Chicago, he held a fellowship at the Center for the American Indian (now the D’Arcy McNickle Center) from 1975 to 1976.

Resuming graduate studies in 1991, he completed a dissertation on the economic life of Fort Riley; the published work, Fort Riley and Its Neighbors: Military Money and Western Development, 1853-1895, received the Edward A. Tihen Award from the Kansas State Historical Society. After working as an archives technician at the National Archives, Dobak gained employment with the United States Army Center of Military History. With Thomas D. Phillips, he co-authored The Black Regulars, 1866-1898, winner of the Robert M. Utley Prize. His final book, Freedom By the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867, appeared in 2011. This publication won the Richard Leopold Prize for best book written by a U.S. government historian and was a runner-up for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. A member of the Western History Association for nearly three decades, Dobak served on the editorial board of the Western Historical Quarterly. He authored twelve scholarly articles on topics such as bison, the fur trade, and the enlisted soldiers of the United States Army. The latter appear in the Western Historical Quarterly, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Kansas History, the Journal of the Early Republic, and other publications.  

After a protracted clash with stage IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma, he died at home in Hyattsville, MD, on September 16, 2022. He is survived by his wife Catharine R. Franklin.   

The WHA is located in the Department of History at the University of Kansas.

The WHA is grateful to KU's History Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their generous support!

Western History Association

University of Kansas | History Department

1445 Jayhawk Blvd. | 3650 Wescoe Hall

Lawrence, KS 66045 | 785-864-0860