Taylor Dowe Littleton departed this life March 25, 2023. He was born March 14, 1930, in Birmingham, to May Taylor Littleton and Florence Longcrier Littleton. He attended Birmingham public schools, graduating from Woodlawn High School in 1947. He attended Auburn University (formerly API) for two years before continuing his higher education at Florida State University, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before serving for two years in the U.S. Army. After beginning doctoral studies at FSU, he married Mary Lucy Williams of Tallahassee, Florida, in 1954, and they remained married for 67 years until her death in 2021.
When his GI Bill benefits expired, Littleton and his family moved to Auburn in 1957, where he began an appointment in the university’s Department of English. Receiving his Ph.D. in English Renaissance Literature from FSU in 1960, Littleton taught the department curriculum for more than 40 years, including periods when he also held various full-time administrative appointments. He served two years as the first dean of undergraduate studies, then spent 11 years as vice president for academic affairs. His many administrative contributions in this position included arranging for the appointment of the first named professorship at Auburn, with a salary supplement from private sources — a plan intended to attract and retain outstanding faculty. Under a new president, he led a committee in the renovation of the entire undergraduate curriculum, resulting in a program of liberal education studies required of all students. For several decades, since 1967, he directed a program which, with generous foundation funding, brought to the campus eminent international scholars from both England and America — Nobel laureates, Pulitzer designates, distinguished writers and scientists — to give public lectures, visit classrooms and interact informally with faculty, alumni and friends of the university. He was named W. Kelly Mosley Professor of Science and Humanities in 1980.
Littleton’s book-length publications, some written with distinguished colleagues, include studies in American biography, English literature, American art history (including an account and the significance of the “Advancing American Art” paintings, which now form the basic collection of the university art museum), American natural history, and a consideration of the relationship between athletics and the university (Athletics and Academe). He also edited a four-volume, university-press edition of essays by scholars who visited during the earlier years of the Littleton-Franklin Lectures series (Rights of Memory).
Following his retirement from university service, Littleton was active in the organization and administration of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art, serving as the first president of its advisory board. He was also one of the first retirees to offer courses in what is now the OLLI program, teaching regularly for more than 10 years large classes of fellow retirees and Auburn citizens on literary topics, especially Shakespeare and epic poetry.
Littleton and his family were among the small group of parishioners to attend in 1957 the first services at the newly constructed Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. In 2018 Littleton received the Holy Trinity Service Award for his many years of ministry as Vestryman, Senior Warden, church school teacher, and especially as an early-service lay reader.
He is survived by his children Dowe Williams (Elizabeth), George Burwell (Dorothy), John Franklin (Carole) and Mary Wood (Gayle); his grandchildren Wells (Meagan), Taylor, Lucas, Benjamin, Lucy, Annie, Kaitlyn and Gabriel; and great-grandchildren Laekeyn and Brayden; and by his affectionate nephew and nieces: Jack Kane, Beth Bice, Grace Johnson, Lucy Carter and their families. The family extends special thanks to Susan Brown, Nancy Brown and Amanda Ford, who provided loving care for Taylor and Lucy for many years.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 100 Church Drive in Auburn.
Anyone wishing to make a memorial is encouraged by the family to consider a contribution to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, the Food Bank of East Alabama or the Lee County Humane Society.