Seattle’s public policy professor

Scholar, civic leader and former dean Hubert Locke was admired by students and city leaders alike for his drive to support civil and human rights. He died June 2 at the age of 84.

Hubert Gaylord Locke grew up the son of a homemaker and an automobile worker in Detroit. After studying Greek and Latin as an undergraduate at Wayne State University, he went on to the University of Chicago and completed his divinity degree in 1959.

Returning to Detroit, Locke served as a pastor of Church of Christ of Conant Gardens for 12 years. He also earned a master’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Michigan and had turned his energies toward a Ph.D. exploring the role of the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany and Christian accountability during the Holocaust. But in 1962, he left his doctoral studies to join the Civil Rights movement.

In 1965 Locke was serving as executive director of Detroit’s Citizens Committee for Equal Opportunity when Mayor Jerome Cavanagh recruited him to work inside the Detroit Police Department as an administrative assistant to the commissioner. Locke was tasked with building trust between police and the black community and increasing the number of Detroit’s black police officers.

The shock of the 1967 Detroit Riot, which lasted five days, caused $50 million in property damage and left 43 people dead, gave Locke a greater understanding of police-community relations. It compelled him to write a definitive firsthand account of the riot. It also led him to advocate for community-oriented policing throughout his academic and civic life.

In 1976 Locke brought his hard-earned experience to Seattle, where he became associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the UW. He fell in love with the city, and in turn the city welcomed his expertise. Former Mayor Norman Rice, ’72, ’74, says that although Locke never told him what to do, “he was a fountain and beacon of [public policy] knowledge. His learning was not just academic, but real.”

Over the decades, Locke served on and led many Seattle boards and committees, including the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Ethics Board of King County and the Seattle Police Foundation. He advised Seattle’s 1999 Citizen Review Panel responsible for evaluating the Police Department’s practice and culture of employee accountability. He also wrote about the American criminal justice system in academic journals and the popular press. In one recent piece, Locke advocated for a different way to assess police performance on the streets with “at least as much emphasis and weight on community order and stability as … on how many traffic tickets an officer writes.”

In another editorial, published online on Crosscut in 2013, he tackled the death penalty. “The racial disparities on Washington’s death row, however, remain one of its most glaring features,” he wrote, arguing that if state legislators wouldn’t abolish the death penalty, the governor should place a moratorium on it. The following year, Gov. Jay Inslee did just that.

His long-standing efforts to end institutional racism and promote civil liberties garnered him the 2008 William O. Douglas Award from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Locke also devoted energy to his friends, colleagues and students, who remember him as a witty, warm, baritone-voiced man who had plenty of broad-minded advice. Yoram Bauman, ‘03, an economist, comedian and climate change activist, struck up a friendship with Locke in 2004 when they were both visiting professors at Whitman College. Bauman remembers Locke as “such a dignified, compassionate and thoughtful man” who always welcomed him with a glass of wine.

Rice describes Locke as a good friend, mentor, and colleague. Although he graduated before Locke came to the UW, Rice often referred to Locke as “my professor.” “He was a Renaissance man, and very erudite. He was the kind of person you could always trust, who you could always confide in, and who didn’t judge you,” Rice says. “There are few people in my life that I hold in as much esteem.”

“He had a brilliant mind, was an avid reader, and he was always well-informed on key issues affecting the University, our region, and the world,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce writes in her memories of Locke. “Long before he arrived at the UW, and long after he retired in 1999, Hubert was a force for justice, ethics and historical context. His work left an indelible mark on the Evans School and our whole University; he will be greatly missed.”