Dr. Ray B. Browne, who was instrumental in establishing the first full-fledged department of popular culture in the United States at BGSU in 1973, died Oct. 22 at home in Bowling Green. He was 87.
Ray B. Browne
Internationally recognized as a publisher and expert in popular culture, Browne is often credited with coining the term and as being among the first to propose its serious study. In 1967, he created the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and published the Journal of Popular Culture, the nation’s first publication of its kind, which includes writings of popular culturists, folklorists and American studies enthusiasts. He founded the Popular Culture Association and organized the Bowling Green Popular Press in 1970 and, in 1978, founded the Journal of American Culture.
Browne was a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of popular culture at BGSU, where he taught from 1967-92. He established the popular culture department in 1973 with colleagues Michael Marsden and Jack Nachbar. In 1977, he received the title of Distinguished University Professor, which is accorded faculty who have achieved national and international stature in their fields.
Marsden, a former BGSU faculty member and associate dean who is now academic vice president and dean at St. Norbert College, remembers Browne as an inspiring mentor, colleague and friend. “There was never anything but possibility with Ray. He made you believe in yourself and your future and your possibilities,” Marsden said. It was that enthusiasm and confidence that in part enabled Browne to achieve so much and to encourage others to pursue new scholarly ventures, he said.
After his retirement from full-time teaching, Browne continued to contribute to the University’s popular culture book collection through his writing and donations. BGSU’s now 40-year-old popular culture library is named in honor of Browne and his wife Pat. They were co-editors of the 1,010-page “Guide to United States Popular Culture,” published by the Bowling Green Popular Press in 2001.
Browne wrote or edited more than 70 books and hundreds of articles, and was an editor of several publications. He was also widely quoted by media, lectured in several countries and was consulted by the Smithsonian Institution on popular culture issues.
The Millport, Ala., native received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Alabama in 1943 and, after serving in the U.S. Army, a master’s degree in English from Columbia University in 1947. He earned his doctorate in American literature, American history and American folklore from UCLA in 1956.
He began teaching at the University of Nebraska in 1947 and subsequently taught at UCLA, the University of Maryland and Purdue University before coming to Bowling Green in 1967.