Taylor, Paul Schuster, 1895-1984.
Paul Schuster Taylor (1895-1984), an Iowa-born economist, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1917. He served as a Marine captain with the Second Division, American Expeditionary Forces in France from 1917 to 1919. At the end of his military service, he resumed his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a Masters degree in 1920, and a Ph.D. in 1922. Joining the Department of Economics immediately after graduation, Taylor remained at the University of California, Berkeley throughout his career.
As one of the first scholars to study the problems of migrant farm workers, Taylor was asked by the California Emergency Relief Administration to report on the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants who flocked into California during the Great Depression. He took a leave from the University to complete the study and persuaded Dorothea Lange, a San Francisco photographer, to join his study team. His report, illustrated by Lange's moving photographs, persuaded California relief officials to build housing for migrants and inspired the Franklin Roosevelt administration to provide food, housing, and medical care for Dust Bowl refugees. Lange and Taylor married in 1935. In 1939, they again collaborated for the book, An American Exodus, which is generally considered the most moving depiction of the effects of the Depression on rural America.
In 1943, Taylor began a persistent crusade to protect small farmers' rights to federally subsidized water. He argued that land ownership patterns directly affect the quality of rural life. Small farms create schools, churches, community organizations and other adjuncts of a healthy society, while large farms create poverty-stricken farm workers. His arguments led to numerous court decisions which threatened many of the giant farms in California's Central Valley. The rulings generated a successful lobbying effort that led to the Federal Reclamation Reform Act of 1982.
Paul Taylor's testimony, frequently given before congressional committees, and his many contacts with people in related fields of endeavor made him a well-known and highly respected scholar. Through varied interests, Taylor became disturbed by the efforts of large land and water owners in California, as well as in other western states, to prevent the enforcement of the 160-acre excess land limitation in the Federal reclamation laws. In 1949, his "Central Valley Project: Water and Land" was published in The Western Political Quarterly;in it Taylor reviewed the history of irrigation in California and the West, and described efforts made in Congress to break down reclamation legislation. He followed this article with a second piece in the same journal in 1959, in which he showed the various ways administrators with the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation were permitting the breakdown of enforcement of the excess lands provision. As an example of how well Paul Taylor succeeded in setting forth his analysis, the United States Supreme Court cited his "Excess Land Law: Execution of a Public Policy" in its landmark 8-0 decision upholding the validity of the 160-acre limitation law (Ivanhoe vs. McCracken, 1958).
During most of the 1960s, Taylor conducted studies of rural community development for the United Nations, Stanford Research Institute, and the International Cooperation Administration. He acted as a consultant in numerous foreign countries, including India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, each time recommending solutions to effect change in meeting the land problems of each country.
During the last twenty years of his life, Dr. Taylor wrote many articles on reclamation law for law school journals. Seventeen were reprinted in 1979 by The New York Times Arno Press. In his introduction to the volume, Paul W. Gates, a leading historian of land policy, wrote: "Paul Taylor set an example for scholars to have the courage of their convictions, to delve deeply into major social and economic questions, to present their facts no matter how unpopular this may make them with selfserving politicians who play the game of greedy economic interests attempting to monopolize natural resources made valuable at public expense."
The Conservation Service Award, highest honor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, was presented to Paul Schuster Taylor on May 30, 1980. Secretary of the Interior, Cecil D. Andrus presented the award and the featured speakers included Cesar Chavez, president of the United Farm Workers of America. During the presentation, Secretary Andrus stated, "Eight presidents and many Secretaries of the Interior have heard from Professor Taylor. Some have not gotten the message, despite the fact that it has always been loud and clear."
Paul Taylor's life work has affected the largest institutions and the common working people. The lives of family farmers and farm laborers in this and other nations are still being influenced by his understanding of the delicate relationships between the land and the lives of the people who work it.From the finding aid for Paul Schuster Taylor Papers, 1660-1997 (bulk 1895-1984) (Bancroft Library.)