A professor who battled Confederates and Nazis

“Born on October 21, 1869, at his parents’ home in the tiny hamlet of Clayton, North Carolina, [William] Dodd entered the bottom stratum of white Southern society….

“He fought his way upward, at times focusing so closely on his studies that other students dubbed him ‘Monk Dodd.’… He got his bachelor’s degree [from what would become Virginia Tech] in 1895 and his master’s in 1897….

“In 1902 [while an instructor at Randolph-Macon] Dodd published an article in The Nation in which he attacked a successful campaign by the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans to have Virginia ban a history textbook [for failing to present] the South as ‘altogether right in seceding from the Union.’ ”

— From “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson (2011)

Later, as a professor at the University of Chicago, Dodd desired mainly to complete a three-volume “History of the Old South.” In 1933, however, he accepted FDR’s unlikely appointment as ambassador to Germany, where his naivete soon gave way to alarm and to undiplomatic resistance to the incipient Third Reich.