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Jim Powers Remembers Bernard Reilly

20 Jan 2022 6:04 AM | Kyle C Lincoln (Administrator)

I believe Joe, Bernie, and I first met at the AHA meeting in Philadelphia in 1963. I remember that Edward Kealey, a Medieval English scholar, and my newly met colleague at Holy Cross, led me across a room to meet another rarely encountered Spanish medievalist.  It turned out to be Joe O’Callaghan. Subsequently we bumped into Bernie, yet a third Hispanist, at a session on feudalism. We frequently saw each other during the following years at the AHA meetings and those newer sessions at Kalamazoo.


I can only echo the strongly positive views of Bernard Reilly as a scholar and a man so well detailed by Doubleday and O’Callaghan. Bernie and I occasionally shared a rental car out of the Detroit airport to Kalamazoo, and we discussed our work and our respective families. I was deeply impressed by his deft handling of episcopal archival materials and his sensitivity to how they illuminated the time periods he was covering. We were then both focused on the twelfth century, especially concerning monarchical policy regarding towns.


I have only a small correction to offer on the dating of the origins of AARHMS.  Joe is right to note that Father Robert Burns fashioned the title of the organization with the word Academy leading to secure a high position on the AHA’s list of affiliated societies. However the first meeting was not in 1974, but rather at the 1973 meeting of the AHA at San Francisco. That’s the first program to reference the Society and list our meeting.  We met but did not have a paper–giving session.  We then withdrew to the University of San Francisco (Father Burns’ institutional employer) for a small celebration.


During the drive to the university, Fr. Burns, being a native San Franciscan, wanted to show off his city with enthusiasm. Reilly and O’Callaghan were in the back seat and I was positioned in the front. In order to get in as many vistas as possible, Burns thought haste was important to enjoy the scenic abundance of the hills. My mind began to conjure images of the film Bullitt, made only six years earlier in the same city.  The tour was genuinely breath-taking.  He saved the best for last, a record-setting descent down the famous steep curves of Lombard Street.  Fortunately we were deprived of the record by a slower-moving vehicle in front of us; the passing of which was happily out of the question. But Joe, Bernie and I were concerned we might collectively be the shortest-lived affiliated society in AHA history. I was never more ready for cocktails in my life.  I should note that in future years I was to be driven a number of times by Father Burns in a far more conservative manner. I can only assume that the exhilaration of creating AARHMS touched us all.

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