Rest in Power, Paul L. Doughty

Paul Larrabee Doughty, an Emeritus Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Florida and recipient of the Malinowski Award from Society of Applied Anthropology, passed away Sept. 27, at the age of 93, while under hospice care in Gainesville.

Born on Feb. 27, 1930, in Beacon, New York, Paul led a remarkable life that left an indelible mark on countless individuals and communities. From a young age, Paul’s love for sports, fishing, and scouting ignited his adventurous spirit. He explored the picturesque Mount Beacon and scoured the area’s creeks and empty lots for scrap metal to support the USA’s World War II effort. Paul’s formative years were spent at Oakwood Friends School, where he graduated in 1948. Little did he know that his experiences at this Quaker-based institution would shape one of the defining chapters of his life.

A man of unwavering principles, Paul chose the path of conscientious objection rather than participating in the Korean War and devoted his service to the Friend’s Service Committee, focusing on rural community development in Mexico and El Salvador. This transformative experience fueled his passion for anthropology, ultimately leading him to earn a Ph.D. from Cornell University. His research and fieldwork in the Andean Highlands of Peru left an enduring impact on the communities he lived and worked with, and he continued to maintain strong ties with them throughout his life.

After a seven-year association with the Latin American Studies program at Indiana University, Paul and his family made Gainesville their home in 1971. Starting as Chair of the Anthropology Department, Paul embarked on a long career at the University of Florida, where he dedicated himself to teaching and research. His commitment to academia and his students was unwavering, and he retired in 1995, leaving behind a legacy of knowledge and inspiration.

Paul was a strong advocate and supporter of the peace and justice movement in Central America during the 1980s and ’90s. He was one of the founding members of the Gainesville-Matagalpa Sister City Project, which sought to strengthen ties between residents of Gainesville and Matagalpa at a time when the U.S. administration was involved in a campaign of economic and military aggression against the government of Nicaragua. 

As part of the sister city initiative, Paul led Gainesville delegations to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and organized fundraisers to support a number of projects in solidarity with the people of Matagalpa. One of Paul’s favorite projects was the Casa Materna that provided pre- and post-natal care for women with high-risk pregnancies from rural areas of Matagalpa. Paul also led election observation delegations to Nicaragua for the Latin American Studies Association in 1984 and the U.S.-Nicaragua Sister Cities organization in 1990. All of these efforts helped to raise awareness about the human impact of US foreign policy in the region.

He was involved in many Gainesville organizations, including the Florida Free Speech Forum, Altrusa International (through work with Altrusa House in Gville), the Alachua County Democratic Party and the UN Association. 

Even in retirement, Paul has maintained his commitment to forms of informal and personal humanitarian action. He organized a reunion in the original communities of the volunteers who worked in the 1950s with the American Friends Service in Mexico and El Salvador. During the reunion, the volunteers became aware that the communities in El Salvador where they had worked were in danger of losing lands promised them after the war to encroaching agribusiness in collusion with government departments. Paul organized a fund raising effort that generated enough capital for the communities to purchase the lands and thus retain sufficient holdings to sustain themselves. This informal organization of ex-volunteers from the 1950s continues to maintain ties and work with the communities currently. 

Paul’s passing leaves a void in the hearts of those who knew and loved him. His legacy of intellectual curiosity, dedication to community, establishing scholarships for higher education students, and unwavering commitment to family will continue to inspire generations to come.

He is survived by his son, Thomas Doughty, daughter in-law Lianne, son in-law Bo Nilsson, and loving grandchildren, Maya, Nico, and Lua and a host of friends and colleagues who will forever remember him as a welcoming and generous soul.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Paul and Polly Doughty Scholarship via The Chijnaya Foundation in Paul’s memory.

Victoria Condor-William, Phillip Williams, Tony Oliver-Smith, and Thomas Doughty all provided information for this article.

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