William Marina R.I.P.

Bruce Bartlett just informed me of the sad news that my friend, and Independent Institute Research Fellow, Professor William Marina, died this morning of a heart attack. Bill was a fearless friend of the truth and his passing will be a great loss for us all.

I was first introduced to Bill about twenty years ago by his friend Leonard Liggio. We had a wonderful lunch discussion about American history including his dissertation on the American Anti-Imperialist League. Of all the anti-imperialists, he had the kindest words for U.S. Senator William Borah, an insurgent progressive who opposed empire.

As I grew to know Bill a bit better, I could see that his admiration for Borah made perfect sense. Like many of the insurgents, Bill was suspicious of all forms of militarism, imperialism, and bigness in any form, whether private or public. Bill had strong libertarian inclinations but was best described as a decentralist. He was very much an independent thinker and full of surprises.

In our conversations, I consistently found Bill to be a source of infectious enthusiasm. He described himself as a Taoist and that too made sense when you got to know him. He had an upbeat, but somewhat fatalistic, attitude toward passing events. He was a wealth of insights on such varied issues as the history of bureaucracy, Chinese traditions of localism, the need to promote alternative forms of higher education outside of the universities, and sustainable housing.

Because of his experiences as a Fulbright Scholar and economist for the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, he had many illustrative stories about the corrupting influence of foreign aid and the military-industrial complex.

Remarkably, Bill had been on Dealey Plaza on the day of the Kennedy assassination. Although very much a radical in his opposition to centralized power, he rejected all the JFK conspiracy theories as nonsense and planned to write a book about it. Bill believed that Oswald did it, and did it alone and that the Warren Commission was essentially right. He often compared Oswald to Herostratus who had burned down the Temple of Artemis just so he would be immortalized in history.

Bill was not just a talker. Even while he taught classes at Florida Atlantic University, he made a success in real estate by making efficient use of small, odd-shaped parcels that might otherwise have gone to waste.

Although retired from his university position, he was still a bundle of energy and future projects. Most recently, he set up the Marina-Huerta Educational Foundation to build “self-help,” affordable, and environmentally sound housing. The Foundation built a community center in Guatemala, and Bill hoped to introduce these techniques to the United States.

It is a great shame that he could not have lived longer to finish some of his projects.

David T. Beito is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, retired professor of history at the University of Alabama, and author of The New Deal’s War on the Bill of Rights: The Untold Story of FDR’s Concentration Camps, Censorship, and Mass Surveillance.
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