"Even as he turned to a form of largely conservative cultural commentary on all sorts of things, Reed retained a keen sociological consciousness."
Some months ago, I gave a talk on the American South at the University of Mississippi. During the question-and-answer session that followed, a southern historian noted the prominence of the “ubiquitous” (his word) John Shelton Reed in debates about southern distinctiveness. As a sociologist, I was struck, and also unreasonably pleased, by this historian’s assessment of the centrality of another sociologist’s contribution to a supremely historical question. But I was not particularly surprised: Reed, recently retired Kenan Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is beyond doubt the most accomplished and influential living sociologist of the U.S. South, occupying, in the words of Eugene Genovese, “a special place among American social scientists.” Few sociologists are so closely associated with their subject matter, and fewer still have been so richly honored for their contributions.1