In Remembrance: John T. McAlister ’58, ’65PhD Died on February 14 2023

John T. McAlister Jr., scholar, businessman, political strategist, and proud American, died of undisclosed causes in Anderson, South Carolina, on February 14, 2023. He was 86. 

Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on August 17, 1936, to John T. McAlister and Grace Jeter McAlister, he graduated in 1954 from Spartanburg High School and from Yale in 1958 with a degree in political science and an ROTC commission in the US Navy. After serving in Vietnam as one of the first American officers on board South Vietnamese ships on patrol on the Mekong River, McAlister returned to Yale where he learned Vietnamese and studied with the renowned French historian Paul Mus, earning a PhD in political science before joining the Princeton faculty in 1965. His Vietnam: The Origins of Revolution was published in 1969, followed in 1970 by The Vietnamese and Their Revolution, written together with Paul Mus.

While teaching at Stanford, McAlister began his involvement in business development and intensified his contributions to public affairs, to which he devoted the remainder of his life. He participated over four decades in the campaigns of national political figures such as Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) and Senator John V. Tunney (D-CA). He was a close informal advisor to Democratic National Committee chairman Charles T. Manatt on foreign policy and in the execution of the Democratic National Convention held in San Francisco in 1984.  As an advisor to Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC), he played a role in establishing the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment in 1972. His business ventures included a bank in Palo Alto, California, and real estate developments in Oakland and Playa Vista, California. He spent the last two decades of his life in Asia, first in Beijing, China, from 1994 until 2008 and then in Bangkok, Thailand, leading an effort to develop water pollution abatement programs. He led and energized the Yale Club of Beijing and was deeply involved in the cultural and art life of China’s capital.

His deepest commitment was to the civil rights of African Americans, to which he brought a deep religious faith. McAlister was noted for the richness of his thought, the depth and firmness of his commitments, his devotion to family members and friends, his patriotism toward the United States, and his loyalty to South Carolina, the US Navy, Yale, and the Democratic Party. He is survived by his sister Jane Clark (née McAlister) of Charleston, South Carolina; his beloved nephew James H. Clark IV of Siler City, North Carolina; and grandnieces Madison and Paige Clark.

—Submitted for the family.

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