Dr. Munroe was one of Delaware’s best known and most respected historians. He was born in Wilmington, Del., and educated at the University of Delaware, where he received a B. A. degree, and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Ph.D. In 1942, he accepted a position as an instructor in the Department of History at the University of Delaware, where he taught until his retirement in 1982. In 1962 he was named the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of History, and at various times he also served as assistant dean, alumni secretary and chairman of the history department.
A prolific writer and speaker, John Munroe published over 80 professional articles and many shorter pieces for encyclopedias and magazines. Between 1959 and 1965, he wrote a regular newspaper column on topics in Delaware history. He spoke frequently to fellow scholars and to community groups and also developed two popular sets of televised lectures on Delaware history. Dr. Munroe was widely recognized as the foremost authority on the history of his state, and for many years he taught a most of the students at the University of Delaware who were required to take a course on the history of the state. The University honored Dr. Munroe with the Francis Allison Award, the Outstanding Alumnus Award, and a Medal of Distinction. He was also received awards from three Governors of Delaware, including the first Governor’s Heritage Award, which was given by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in 2003.
Dr. Munroe’s major books included Federalist Delaware, Louis McLane, Colonial Delaware, and The University of Delaware: A History. At the age of 90 he published his last book, The Philadelawareans and other Essays Relating to Delaware.
Munroe’s greatest contribution to scholarship may have been his 763-page biography of the prominent 19th century politician and businessman Louis McLane. McLane was a congressman, senator, secretary of the treasury, American ambassador to England, and president of two of the nation’s largest business enterprise, the Morris Canal and Banking Co. and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In 1951-1952, Dr. Munroe discovered two large caches of family correspondence that were still in the hands of McLane’s descendants in Colorado. In The American Historical Review, the historian Chales M. Wiltse of Dartmouth College described the resulting biography, Louis McLane: Federalist and Jacksonian, as “an immensely readable book” that “add[ed] measurably to our understanding of the Jackson period, of the fascinating characters who peopled it, and of the inter-woven events that swept it forward.”
- Excerpted from "In Memoriam, John A. Munroe" which appeared in UDaily on October 10, 2006,