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Dr. Thomas Rhea Peake, Beloved King Professor, Passes

A beloved member of the #KingUniversity family, Dr. Thomas Rhea Peake, age 77, passed away in the early hours of Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Dr. Peake was a Professor Emeritus of King, having taught History and Political Science. He graduated from King with his Bachelor of Arts in 1962. He spent time at a Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, then went on to receive his Master of Arts and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.

Dr. Peake began his career as a history professor at King in 1966. His passions included European and Russian history. Dr. Peake made several trips to Russia while it was still under dictatorial control. During a January term at King, he took several students on an unforgettable study abroad trip to Russia. Dr. Peake also developed a passion for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. This led to his writing the first comprehensive history called “Keeping the Dream Alive: A History of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from King to the Nineteen-eighties.”

While at King, Dr. Peake, and his wife, Peggy Ann, lived in what is now known as the Snider Honor House. Together, they had six children, including two sets of twins.

Dr. Peake retired as Professor Emeritus of History after 38 years teaching at King. The mark he left on his colleagues and students was indelible.

Randal Gilmore, Ed.S. (’85), director of Teacher Education at King, said of Dr. Peake, “I had Dr. Peake for eight classes from 1982-85, and he exemplified several qualities that I have tried to emulate during my teaching career. He valued each student; he treated students like colleagues. In our Soviet Russia class, students were treated to a Russian meal at his home, wonderfully prepared by his wife, Ann; he took history/political science majors to Duke and UNC Chapel Hill to visit the graduate schools of history and the law schools; and he kept in touch with students after they graduated. Dr. Peake’s life reflected the values of King and the true spirit of Christ.

King Professor Emeritus Dr. Errol Rohr is quoted saying, “Tom was one of my closest friends and colleagues for 30 years at King. I would always introduce him in chapel as one of my favorite preachers. He and I shared a common history in the 60's civil rights movement. I admired, even envied his expansive understanding of history and his deep capacity to articulate the truth of the gospel. When Ann informed me of his passing this morning, my heart ached for his family and friends and all of us who so valued his ministry and teaching. I will always be thankful for the life and work of this good man and follower of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In addition to teaching at King University full-time, Dr. Peake also served as a minister throughout his life. He preached almost every Sunday somewhere in the region. After his retirement, Dr. Peake served for a time as pastor of a Presbyterian church in Shady Valley, Tennessee.

Dr. Martin Dotterweich, associate professor of History at King, said Dr. Peake “always wanted to expand and deepen his mind, and he modeled this habit for his students, and for me. There is much more to be said about Tom as husband and father, teacher and pastor, mentor and friend. But I am deeply grateful to have known him, both personally and from the contours of his impact on students. As we grieve his passing, we rejoice in his faithful life, and the faithful Lord who receives him.”

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