It is with deep sadness to announce the passing of Dr. Michael Combs, a Full Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nebraska. Dr. Combs died on August 29. He was 69-years old.
Dr. Combs served as President of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) from 1987-1988. As a trusted colleague, mentor and accomplished scholar, his work on urban politics was the gold standard in political science. He did cutting-edge research on urban politics, exploring race at the intersection of residential mobility, education, and police brutality. His book “Race and Place: Race Relations in an American City” (co-authored with Susan Welch, Lee Sigleman, and Timothy Bledsoe) received the Urban Politics Book of the Year Award from the American Political Science Association in 2001. He also researched judicial politics and authored “Civil Liberties and the Constitution: Cases and Commentaries” (co-authored with Lucius Barker, Twiley Barker, Jr., Kevin Lyles, and H.W. Perry Jr.).
Faith and service are central to the Combs family. Born and raised in Louisiana, Dr. Combs was the great-grandson, grandson, and son of Baptist ministers. For 30 years, he served as Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, Nebraska’s oldest black Baptist church. He previously served as Associate Pastor of Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Addressing racial inequities was at the forefront of Dr. Combs’ life work. Several years ago, he organized a university-wide discussion on blacks and police killings after protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri in response to the killing of Michael Brown. In 2018, through his dual roles as a pastor and professor in Lincoln, Nebraska, he backed the efforts of the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union to challenge a “school-to-prison” pipeline policy that would have harmed children of color. His church operated as a Beloved Community for the least of these and home-sick students in need of support, love, and tutoring.
Dr. D’Andra Orey worked with Dr. Combs at Nebraska in the early-mid 2000s before leaving for Jackson State University. After hearing about his death Orey stated, “Dr. Combs was an advocate for marginalized groups. As a Baptist preacher and judicial scholar, he was a voice of reason. He was a professional mentor and a spiritual counselor.” Dr. Combs was part of the generation of black scholars that bridged the divide between the campus and community and revolutionized the political science discipline.
NCOBPS sends our condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Combs, especially his wife Dr. Gwendolyn Marizett Combs, Associate Professor of Management and Coordinator in the Office of the Vice Chancellor at the University of Nebraska. Memorials to the family and flowers may be sent to Metcalf Funeral and Memorial Services, 245 N. 27th Street, Lincoln, NE 68503.