Who was LeRoy C. Merritt?
Dr. Merritt, who died in 1970, was one of the library profession’s staunchest opponents of censorship and one of its most vigorous defenders of intellectual freedom. Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1935 with a B.A. and a certificate in librarianship, Dr. Merritt received a Ph.D. in librarianship from the University of Chicago in 1942. His diversified career included working at the Milwaukee Public Library, serving as a librarian at Longwood College, and participating in a Special Services project for the Armed Forces during the Second World War, From 1946 until 1966, Dr. Merritt served on the staff of the University of California School of Librarianship at Berkeley. He was appointed Dean of the School of Librarianship of the University of Oregon in Eugene in 1966.
Dr. Merritt published many articles on intellectual freedom and was perhaps best known to fellow-censorship foes for his editorship of the American Library Association’s Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, which post he held from 1962 until 1970. In 1970 H.W. Wilson published his book, Book Selection and Intellectual Freedom.
For his outstanding accomplishments in the field, Dr. Merritt was selected in 1969 as the first recipient of the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. True to his principles, he immediately forwarded the entire cash award of $500.00 to the Freedom to Read Foundation, becoming the Foundation’s first benefactor.
Dr. Merritt also served as chair of the California Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee and as a member of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee (1959–65).