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James O. Barnhill

May 23, 1922 October 15, 2021
James O. Barnhill
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Obituary for James O. Barnhill
James Orris Barnhill, born May 23, 1922, died October 15, 1921. Born in Sumner, Mississippi, a son of the late Reverend James A. and Louise (Sullivan) Barnhill, and brother of the late Joseph M. Barnhill. He was a Providence resident for over 60 years.
He was educated at Mississippi College, Yale University (B.A. 1947), and New York University (M.A. 1949) before returning to Yale for School of Drama (M.F.A. 1954). He taught for one year at Dubuque University in Iowa and started as an Instructor at Brown University in Providence in 1954, where he became an Assistant Professor of English in 1958 and Professor in 1975. He was appointed Professor of Theater Arts in 1978 and was one of the founding members of Brown’s Theatre, Speech, and Dance Department, serving as its first Chairperson and facilitated the founding of the Rites and Reason Theatre of the Africana Studies Department. He remained active with the Department of Theatre Arts– now Theatre Arts and Performance Studies - after his retirement in 1987.
He was instrumental in setting up Brown’s joint programs with Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS and taught there in 1979-1980 and 1984-1985. He was also a Fulbright Professor of English at Calicut University, Baroda, Gujarat, India in 1983-84, taught at RI School of Design 1986-1994, and taught at the University of the Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan from 1995 to 1997.
During WWII, he was in the US Navy in the Pacific Theatre and was the Executive Officer of a landing craft participating in the Okinawa campaign and in the Occupation of Japan.
In Providence, he was one of the founders of Trinity Square Repertory Theatre, working for 3 seasons with the company and serving in a variety of positions, including stage manager and actor. During his time at Brown, he directed over 200 plays and at RISD he started a cabaret with Visiting Professor Szymon Bojko and Agnieszka Taborska from Poland.
At Brown, Barnhill had many students who became well-known actors and theatre practitioners, including James Naughton, Kate Burton, Aunjanue Ellis, Jobeth Williams, Laura Linney, John Lee Beatty, Richard Foreman, and many others.
A Memorial Service will be held at the First Baptist Church in America, North Main St., Providence, RI at a time to be announced. Donations in his memory may be made to the James O. Barnhill Fund, Dept. of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Box 1897, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912.

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