George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, recently named its North Plaza in honor of Roger Wilkins, a former long-time faculty member who died this past March. Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, said at the dedication ceremony, “when Roger came to George Mason, few knew much about this fledgling university in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Roger was one of those intellectual pioneers who helped put this university on the map.”
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Wilkins moved to Harlem at the age of 9 and later settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree at the University of Michigan.
Wilkins joined the Kennedy administration in 1962 as a special assistant to the director of the Agency for International Development. In 1965, he was appointed an assistant attorney general by President Johnson.
When the Democrats lost power after the 1968 election, Wilkins left government to work for the Ford Foundation. Beginning in 1972, Wilkins began a new career as a journalist, first for the Washington Post and then The New York Times. He was the author of Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism (Beacon Press, 2001).
In 1988, Wilkins joined the faculty at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as the Clarence J. Robinson Professor in History and American Culture. He remained on the faculty for nearly 20 years until his retirement in 2007.