Community mourns loss of Troy professor

Published 2:00 am Friday, August 7, 2015

Dr. Milton McPherson slipped quietly away from Troy about a couple of years ago and went back to, as he would say, his stomping grounds down around Monroeville.

His death on Monday brought back many memories to those who knew and appreciated him as a teacher, patriot, historian, raconteur and an all around “character.”

McPherson came to Troy State University in 1968 to teach American history and almost immediately was a professor of choice for the students.

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“Dr. McPherson was a true Southern gentleman/professor and the students loved him,” said Sandra Pugh Caldwell, who was McPherson’s student office worker for four years. “There was nothing about American history that Dr. McPherson didn’t know. He was very interesting, and all of the students wanted to take his classes. He had a great sense of humor, and he used his humor in class. He was a funny man and extremely knowledgeable. He brought history to life by telling tidbits of information that you wouldn’t find in textbooks.”

Caldwell said McPherson used slides from real photographs in his class presentations, but the vivid pictures he painted with words were what most students remembered and appreciated.

Grady Post taught with McPherson at Troy State University and also described him as a “colorful character” and an innovative teacher.

“This might sound cliché, but Milton was a very gregarious and likeable person,” Post said. “You could call him a raconteur because he could keep you entertained. He was a very social sort of person, and people liked him.”

Post said McPherson was innovative in his teachings, and he could hold the students’ interest with his stories.

“He was an outstanding professor of history,” Post said “He was a historian. He took history seriously.”

And, McPherson took pride in the role he played in history. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War with the 45th Division in Louisiana and in Japan. When he returned to the states, he attended OCS infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia and was commission a 2nd Lieutenant. His first tour of duty as an officer was with the 61st Infantry Company in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Margaret Stewart knew McPherson best through the Civil War Forum of which they were members.

“Milton was knowledgeable about all history and I would say he was an authority on Civil War history,” she said. “He would always inquire about the Forum’s next guest speaker so he could prepare for the meeting. He always had something to contribute to the discussion and it was always of interest. If the speaker brought up something that Milton questioned, he would go home and research it. He loved history and he enjoyed learning. But there was not a lot left for him to learn.”

Art McKnatt said he was privileged to have McPherson for a history class.

“I have so much respect for Dr. McPherson as a teacher, as a historian and as delightful man,” he said. “His class was a lot like the Civil War Forums I attended with him. It was casual and lighthearted and very enjoyable. I was always impressed with his knowledge. His class was open to discussion and he was interested in hearing from the students, if we had questions or comments, he welcomed both.”

McKnatt visited McPherson in Monroeville several months ago.

“At the forum one night we were talking about him and I decided to go find him,” McKnatt said. “He had just moved into an apartment for the elderly. He said where he had been previously he had often dined with Harper Lee. What I would give to have heard the conversations between those two.”

Funeral services for McPherson were held in Monroeville on Thursday.