True West’s staff recently received news from Brian Dervin Dillon, Ph.D., that his father, Richard H. Dillon, renowned, award-winning Western historian, educator and author died at the age of 92 in Mill Valley, California, on July 7, 2016. A contributor to True West for decades, he was one of the first authors I contracted to review books for “Western Books” when I began managing the column in April 2013. Mr. Dillon was a gentleman-scholar, and I admired the fact that he posted his reviews the old-fashioned way: hand-typed and by U.S. mail. We exchanged letters, phone calls and even Christmas cards. As a native-Californian as well, I wish I had known him in person and been one of his students, many of whom remain dedicated to the highly respected professor.
Dillon was born in Sausalito, California, on January 16, 1924, graduated from Tamalpais High School and entered UC Berkeley in 1941, before enlisting in the army in 1943. According to his son, “Dillon was a WWII combat soldier who served with the famous 79th Division in France (where he was WIA), Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Czechoslovakia. His nickname in the Army was “The Perfesser.” He returned to UC Berkeley in 1946, only days after demobilization. He earned an MA in History, and also published his first scholarly work, in 1949. Dillon then took a second MA at Berkeley in Library Science in 1950.”
Dillon was predeceased by his wife, Barbara Allester Sutherland, a fellow librarian and ceramic artist, who died in 2009, is survived by three sons, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. For 30 years Dillon served as the head librarian of San Francisco’s Sutro Library. While teaching history at the University of San Francisco for more than three decades, he wrote dozens of biographies, California and Western American history, many of which are still in print today, fifty years after publication. An informal memorial, for close friends and family, will be held for Richard H. Dillon on December 26, 2016, in Marin County, California.