Richard Lillard; Educator, Writer


Richard Lillard, an educator and writer with a lifelong devotion to the environment, has died in a Santa Monica hospital. The retired chairman of the English department at Cal State L.A. and award-winning historian was 80 and died March 19 of the complications of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Born in Los Angeles, Lillard was a prolific author who expressed in print his interests in Western history, fiction, the Nevada desert and his own home in Beverly Glen Canyon, a patch of verdant wilderness surrounded by the nation’s second-largest city.

In “My Urban Wilderness in the Hollywood Hills,” published in 1983, Lillard told of the mammals, reptiles and insects on the one-third acre that he lovingly tended; of the plants and trees, the swelling buds and the aphids that threatened them.


“I both don’t belong here and I do,” he said of his then-36-year odyssey in the chaparral-covered hills.

Lillard earned degrees at Stanford and the University of Montana before earning a doctorate in American civilization from the University of Iowa in 1943.

He taught in Montana, Wyoming and Marysville, Calif., before joining the faculty of Los Angeles City College in 1933. He later taught at Indiana University and UCLA before moving to the Cal State English department in 1965, where he was chairman of the department from 1971 to 1974 before retiring.

In addition to such books as “America in Fiction,” “Desert Challenge,” “The Great Forest,” “American Life in Autobiography” and “Eden in Jeopardy: Man’s Prodigal Meddling with the Environment,” he became an adviser to naturalists and entomologists, a reviewer of countless books--many of those reviews published in The Times--and a contributor to dozens of magazines.

His honors include Guggenheim and Fulbright awards and a fellowship from the Huntington Library in San Marino. Last May he was made a fellow of the Historical Society of Southern California for his historical and environmental contributions.

Most recently he had edited a yet-to-be-published work by G. Harold Powell: “Letters From the Orange Empire.”

Survivors include his wife, Louise, and two daughters. A memorial service is pending.