School 14

Dr. Harry A. Kersey Jr.

April 30, 1935 ~ November 7, 2021 (age 86)

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Dr. Harry A. Kersey, Jr. passed away on Sunday, November 7, 2021, at age 86.  He was born in Jacksonville, Florida on April 30, 1935, to Harry A. Kersey, Sr. and Margaret Mozley Kersey.  He attended local schools in Jacksonville, including Landon High, and received his Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degrees from the University of Florida, where he was a member of Florida Blue Key, the Hall of Fame, and Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.    

Dr. Kersey served in the US Air Force as an intelligence officer, and was on active duty from 1958-61.  He received the Air Force Commendation Medal upon completion of his term of service, and was honorably discharged in March of 1965. 

Dr. Kersey earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1965 and taught at the University of Indiana South Bend campus.  The following year he moved to Boca Raton, Florida to teach at the newly opened Florida Atlantic University, where he remained until his retirement in 2003.

Recognized as an expert on the history and culture of Florida Indians, Dr. Kersey worked extensively with the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes in various capacities.  He served as a consultant to the Seminole Tribe in its land claims and water rights cases.  The Miccosukee Tribe also engaged him in their efforts to overturn PL 83-280 (a federal law that allowed states to assume jurisdiction over reservation Indians) and secure retrocession of jurisdiction in criminal cases from state to tribal courts.  He has also appeared as an expert witness in federal court cases involving Indian civil rights issues.  For a decade Dr. Kersey served as a member of the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs, a commission that advises the state’s chief executive on policy matters affecting native peoples. By law, the Council’s membership is comprised of two-thirds Indians and one-third at-large members.  At the request of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, three successive governors appointed Dr. Kersey as an at-large member during the period 1978-1988.

Dr. Kersey has written extensively on issues affecting indigenous people.  His trilogy on Florida’s Indians in the 19th and 20th century includes Pelts, Plumes, and Hides: White Traders among the Seminole Indians, 1870-1930 (University Press of Florida, 1975), which received a commendation from the American Association for State and Local History.  Subsequent works include: The Florida Seminoles and the New Deal, 1933-1942 (University Press of Florida, 1989), and An Assumption of Sovereignty:  Social and Political Transformation among the Florida Seminoles, 1953-1979 (University of Nebraska Press, 1996). Buffalo Tiger: A Life in the Everglades (University of Nebraska Press, 2002), a biography co-authored with legendary Miccosukee Indian leader Buffalo Tiger, received both the James Horgan Book Award and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Prize from the Florida Historical Society in 2003. 

Kersey also authored The Stranahans of Fort Lauderdale – A Pioneer Family of New River (University Press of Florida, 2003), which details the history of this prominent family as well as a history of early Fort Lauderdale. His most recent work, co-authored with Julian Pleasants, Seminole Voices, Reflections on their Changing Society, 1970-2000 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010) - won the silver medal in non-fiction from the 2010 Florida Book Awards, the Florida Historical Society’s Moore Award for ethnic history, and the Proctor prize for best oral history.

In addition to eleven books, Dr. Kersey authored or co-authored over 75 scholarly articles and book chapters.  In 1987, he received the Arthur W. Thompson Prize, awarded by the Florida Historical Society for the best article on Florida history.

Dr. Kersey‘s extensive background in international research and teaching garnered five prestigious Fulbright Awards.  He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at two African universities – the University of Zimbabwe (1984) and the National University of Lesotho (1988).  During 2000 he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the National Library of New Zealand, where he conducted research for a comparative study of Maori and American Indian sovereignty issues.  In 2002 and 2005, he returned to New Zealand as a Fulbright Senior Specialist examining the impact of Maori issues in New Zealand politics.

Dr. Kersey is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ruth Dyer Kersey, daughters Karen Kersey Wynne and Laura Lynn Kersey, sons-in-law Michael Wynne and Joseph Mir, and granddaughter Shaina Nicole Kersey Wynne.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, November 20 at Glick Family Funeral Home, 3600 N. Federal Highway, in Boca Raton (561-672-1880).

Donations may be made to the Florida Historical Society in memory of Dr. Harry Kersey. http://myfloridahistory

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Harry A. Kersey Jr., please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
November 20, 2021

2:00 PM
Glick Family Funeral Home
3600 North Federal Highway
Boca Raton, Florida 33431

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