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Thomas Sowell Turns 90

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Dr. Thomas Sowell has been both a friend and a colleague of mine for over a half-century. On June 30, he will have completed his 90th year of life, and I want to highlight some important features of that life.

Sowell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, in 1930. As part of the great black migration northward during the 1930s and ‘40s, he and his family moved to Harlem, New York. Sowell attended the prestigious Stuyvesant High School but dropped out. In 1951, he was drafted into the military and assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps where he became a photographer. Photography remains his hobby today.

After his military tour of duty, Sowell took night classes at Howard University where he was encouraged to apply to Harvard University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and graduated magna cum laude in 1958. The next year, he earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. Ten years later, Sowell earned a Ph.D. in economics, from the prestigious economics department at the University of Chicago. As Sowell explains in his autobiography, “A Personal Odyssey,” for most of his time in college, he considered himself a Marxist. After studying the effects of a variety of government regulations such as the minimum wage law, Sowell concluded that free markets are the best alternative, particularly for disadvantaged people.

 

Sowell taught economics at several universities including Howard University, Rutgers, Cornell, Brandeis University, Amherst College and UCLA. Since 1980, he has been a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he holds the Rose and Milton Friedman fellowship. By the way, Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and George Stigler were two of Sowell’s tenacious mentors as a student at the University of Chicago.:snip:

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