Padelford, Frederick Morgan (1875-1942): A Biography by his Great Grandson

  • By Gordon Padelford
  • Posted 5/20/2002
  • Essay 3796

This biography of Frederick Morgan Padelford, University of Washington English professor and Dean of the Graduate School, was written by his great grandson Gordon Padelford, who is 13 years old at this writing (May 2002).

Frederick Morgan Padelford

Frederick Morgan Padelford, my great grandfather, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, on February 27, 1875. He was the son of Adoniram Judson Padelford and Anna Gordon Grassie Padelford. He would grow up to accomplish many things besides being a great person.

Frederick spent his early life in Calaias, Maine, with his brother, Frank William Padelford, where his father was the pastor of the Baptist Church. He went to Calais High School and then on to Colby College in 1892. He received his undergraduate B.A. degree from Colby College in 1896 and his Ph.D. from Yale in 1899. In 1934 he was the Commencement speaker at Colby College and was awarded an honorary LL.D degree. In 1936, Mills College also awarded him an honorary LL.D degree.

Frederick married a classmate from Colby College, Jessie Elizabeth Pepper, from Waterville, Maine, on July 6, 1899. They had four children: Morgan Grassie, Eunice Brewster, Philip Sidney (my grandfather), and Charles Gordon.

The Padelfords first lived in Moscow, Idaho, where Frederick was the professor of English at the University of Idaho from 1899 to 1901. In 1901, they moved to Seattle so he could become the Professor of English. He taught at the University of Washington for the remaining 41 years of his life.

The Padelfords went to London for the years 1905-6 where he spent the year studying at the British Museum and at Oxford. On February 1, 1920, he was appointed Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Washington and served in that position until he died. He was also the Assistant Dean of Faculties from 1927 to 1931 and Assistant Vice President of the University from 1931 to 1932.

Over his 41 years at the University of Washington, Frederick Morgan Padelford saw the registration of the University grow from 600 students to 14,000. He was part of the backbone of the University because he was "one of the early giants in the University, one who certainly was instrumental in guiding it from minor educational status into its years of majority among the state institutions."

The Dean had many truly amazing accomplishments. Being a Spenserian scholar, he discovered in 1932, a lost translation, by Edmund Spenser, of the pseudo-Platonic dialogue Axiochus, of which no copy had been seen or accurately described for nearly 200 years. He wrote nearly 90 items including authoring, translating, contributing to, and being the editor of publications. As well as being the President of the Modern Language Association of America in 1942, he was a trustee of the Seattle Public Library and of the Seattle Art Museum and was at one time President of the Art Institute.

Dean Padelford enjoyed golf, handball, hunting, cruising, and mountain climbing. In his classes he was a change from the ordinary professor. He was not boring and strict, but gentle although firm with the capability to excite his class. To all that knew him he was a good friend and was called "Paddy."

He was witty and to show this there is a story of him at the university: After congratulating the library workers on their new precautionary measures against book theft, he walked out right under their noses with an unabridged Webster's Dictionary beneath his raincoat. He kept his dignity and was consulted for advice by many including anybody from a local boy's school to the President of the University.

All who knew his kind heart were saddened to see him go, especially his wife who lived for another 25 years. On December 3, 1942, at the age of 67, Frederick Morgan Padelford died suddenly of coronary thrombosis, or a heart attack. He was visiting his son's home in Pasadena, California. Thank you for reading this biography.



He is my great grandfather; The Compendium of American Genealogy -- First Families of America ed. by Frederick Adams Virkus (The Virkus Co., 1930); Newspaper articles from The Seattle Times archives.

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