R. Michael Malek, one of my predecessors here at the University of South Alabama, was a specialist in the history of the Caribbean, particularly the Dominican Republic. His research focused on the regime of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Although I did not know him intimately, I can provide some basic facts about his life and career. It is a tragic story.
Mike was born in Seattle on September 20, 1942. He grew up there and in Portland, Oregon. He received a bachelor of science in history and political science from Portland State University in 1966, interrupting his studies in 1962 and 1963 to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. He obtained the master’s (1968) and the doctorate (1971) in Latin American history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he studied under Donald Dozer. He taught at the Interamerican University in Puerto Rico in the year 1971–72 before being appointed assistant professor of history at the University of South Alabama in 1972.
He taught at the University of South Alabama from 1972 until 1986. In that year he had to take an early medical retirement, due to the incapacitating effects of Huntington’s chorea. The illness cut short his work on the Trujillo regime and ended a promising scholarly career.
Mike was the book review editor of the Revista Interamericana/Interamerican Review for many years. He was active in CLAH and SECOLAS. He was also involved in Sister Cities International and Partners of the Americas, promoting cultural exchanges between Mobile, Alabama, and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. He died in Mobile on November 1, 1995, after a two-year struggle with cancer.