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Dr. Charles Carroll
(1876-1936) ~ Inducted 2009
Dr. Charles Carroll (1876-1936), Rhode Island’s foremost historian of his era, was
born in Providence to newspaper printer William Carroll and Mary (Sheehan) Carroll. He was educated in the Providence public schools and at Brown University where he excelled in mathematics, edited the Brown Daily Herald, captained the debate team, and served as secretary of the class of 1898. He furthered his studies at Harvard receiving a law degree from that university in 1901, the same year he was admitted to the Rhode Island bar.
During the next fifteen years, Carroll combined his career as a practicing attorney with newspaper work and further formal study. He returned to Brown to earn a masters’ degree in Social and Political Science and a doctorate in education. His expertise in the fields of law and historyproduced the first publications--School Law of Rhode Island (1916) and Public Education in Rhode Island (1918). The latter, an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation, was a 500-page history of the state’s public school system.
In recognition of his scholarly efforts, in 1916 Carroll was appointed assistant to Walter E. Ranger, state commissioner of education and an instructor at Rhode Island Normal School (now Rhode Island College). In the ensuing years, he taught courses in education and political science at RIC and school law and administration at Rhode Island State College (now URI). He also served as a trustee of Providence College.
During his career as administrator, Carroll drafted more than fifty educational bills that were enacted into law by the General Assembly. He also wrote numerous educational and historical pamphlets about Rhode Island for the instruction of students and the general public, including biographical profiles of prominent early Rhode Islanders, essays on school law, and outlines of the federal and state constitutions. He even wrote “Rhode Island” the state anthem.
However, Carroll’s masterwork was Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, a four-volume opus containing two volumes of accurate narrative history and two devoted to biographical profiles of early 20th century Rhode Island leaders. It remains the best multi-volume history of the state.
Dr. Carroll married Gertrude Gariepy of Pawtucket in 1902 and fathered two children. He was a very active Catholic layman holding leadership positions in several religious societies.
Dr. Carroll’s death on January 4, 1935 at the age of fifty-nine has a sad and ironic twist. He passed away at the very start of Rhode Island’s tercentennial observance, the state’s largest historical celebration to that date--an observance his writings did so much to enrich and one during which he would have played, perhaps, the most prominent role.
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- Law / Legal Pioneers
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