The Richardson Professorship honors Richard Judson Richardson, a noted political scientist and member of the UNC faculty from 1969 until his retirement in 2000.


See below for a biography of Prof. Richardson and an explanation of the creation of the Professorship that bears his name.

Biography of Dick Richardson

As the holder of the endowed Burton Craige professorship, Richardson specialized in the study of the judiciary.  His 1967 PhD dissertation on U.S. courts of appeals won the Edwin Corwin Award from the American Political Science Association, which cited his study for its “novel conclusions about the interplay between the federal trial and intermediate appellate judicial process.”  Richardson’s 1970 Politics of the Federal Courts is cited to this day as the benchmark study of the lower federal courts in the United States, and his Politics of American Democracy, co-authored with Marian Irish and James Prothro, was for a generation the nation’s most widely adopted college textbook in American politics.

No one in his generation rivaled Professor Richardson in service to the broader University, service that was capped in 1995-2000 when he served as University Provost.  Richardson chaired the Department of Political Science for two five-year terms, during a period of rapid growth in student enrollment, faculty appointments, and national reputation.  These long-term administrative commitments were interspersed with other major responsibilities.  Standing out among them was his service as Chair of the UNC Bicentennial Observance (1991-94).

Through all this, Professor Richardson’s dedication to community service was and continues to be unexcelled.  For decades he has played a leadership role with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Inter-Faith Council for Social Services, which operates a food-bank for the poor and a shelter for the homeless, and he continues to serve as a volunteer at state prisons, a commitment that began in 1976 at the maximum security Central Prison in Raleigh.  He has served on the boards of an extensive list of community service and public affairs organizations, including local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the United Way, the American Field Service, and Heifer International.

Reflecting all of these achievements, the UNC Board of Trustees celebrated Professor Richardson’s retirement with an uncommon gesture of appreciation, the creation of the Richardson Professorship.  This rare occurrence, unique in the history of the Department of Political Science, reflected all of what is mentioned above plus what Professor Richardson will tell you is his most coveted achievement: a legendary reputation as one of the most accomplished classroom instructors in the two-century history of the University of North Carolina.  In 1972 Richardson received the Tanner Award “for excellence in inspirational teaching of undergraduates;” in 1981 the University Award “for excellence in undergraduate teaching by a full professor;” and in 1993 the James Johnson Teaching Award “for inspirational teaching of undergraduates.”  His gifts (and hard work) as a classroom instructor also contributed significantly to the Thomas Jefferson Award (1987), the Order of the Long Leaf Pine (1990), the Order of the Golden Fleece (1981) the Laura Thomas Award (1999), the C. Knox Massey Award (2000), and the capstone William Richardson Davie Award (2005), the highest award made by the University board of Trustees.

Living in Chapel Hill and married for 51 years to what he will always tell you is his better half, Sue, Professor Richardson is the father of four children and 10 grandchildren, and community service takes up most of the rest of his day.

Creation of the Richardson Professorship

Click here to read a story from the UNC development foundation about the creation of the Richardson professorship.

[Last updated by Frank R. Baumgartner, May 14, 2023]