His specialty as a pioneering Black political science professor at San Diego State University was the U.S. Constitution, and E. Walter Miles saw that founding document as a living thing that needed exercise now and then.
So he was an activist as well as an academic.
Miles, who died July 8 in San Diego at age 86, had a social-justice resume that included desegregating restaurants in Indiana, boycotting businesses that discriminated in Texas, and pushing for equitable housing in North Carolina.
“I was born into it,” he said in a 1993 interview with an American Civil Liberties Union publication, which helps explain why he was willing to come to SDSU in the mid-1960s and be the only Black professor on campus.
He spent more than 30 years at the university, including a term as head of the political science department, and is remembered for starting public law classes that are still taught there.
He co-authored the textbook “Vital Issues of the Constitution” and was a contributor to “Great Cases of the Supreme Court,” which included looks at landmark decisions involving slavery, the right to vote, and freedom of expression.
A member of the editorial boards of several academic journals, Miles was also active in the American Political Science Association, serving on a committee, the APSA Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession, that tried to increase the participation of African-Americans in the discipline.
Miles also served on the APSA Council (1981-1983), was a member Ethics Committee (1971 and 1992), and the Task Force on the Future of the Association (1978), and was an early and long-serving member of the Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession (1974-1982).