Ronald L. Baker died June 1 in Indianapolis at the age of 85.
Baker was a founding member of the AFS History and Folklore Section and edited The Folklore Historian for many years. The section honored him with its lifetime achievement award on the occasion of the Centennial of the American Folklore Society in 1988. He was elected to the AFS Fellows in 1990, and also served the AFS by conducting its surveys of folklore courses and programs.
Associated with teaching and leadership in English at Indiana State University, he had a long publication record in legend, ballad and song, humor, literature, proverbs and speech, and names. He also taught at Indiana University-Bloomington and the University of Illinois. He received his PhD in folklore with minors in comparative literature and philosophy from Indiana University in 1969 with a dissertation that was published by Bowling Green State University Popular Press on folklore in the writings of Rowland Robinson.
Born on June 30, 1937 in Indianapolis, Indiana, he studied the culture of his home state and the Midwest region. He promoted this study through his presidency of the Hoosier Folklore Society and his editing of the journals Midwestern Folklore and Indiana Names. His books on Indiana include Indiana Place Names (1975), Hoosier Folk Legends (1984), Jokelore: Humorous Folktales from Indiana (1986), French Folklife in Old Vincennes (1989), From Needmore to Prosperity: Hoosier Place Names in Folklore and History (1995), Homeless, Friendless, and Penniless: The WPA Interviews with Former Slaves Living in Indiana (2000), and Jesse Stuart and the Hoosier Schoolmaster.
The book Manly Traditions: The Folk Roots of American Masculinities was a festschrift in his honor and referred to his interpretations of gender issues in jokes, songs, recitations, and legends. At Indiana State University, he organized a folklore archives, annual folklore meetings, and a folklore minor.
This In Memoriam was written by Simon Bronner (and lightly edited for audience) by AFS staff. You can read Bronner’s full post on the AFS History and Folklore Section Facebook Page.
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