Lyle Shannon (1920–2005)

Emeritus Professor Lyle W. Shannon, 85, died December 20, 2005. Professor Shannon received a BA in Sociology from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa and a MA and Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle. He taught at the University of Washington, the University of Wyoming, the University of Colorado, Wayne State University, the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and the University of Iowa. He was Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Iowa from 1962 to 1970. From 1970 to his retirement he was Director of the Iowa Urban Community Research Center at the University of Iowa.

Professor Shannon’s research began in the 1950’s with studies of the relationship between economic and social development and the political status of 200 self-governing countries and non-self-governing colonies. His 1957 volume, Underdeveloped Areas: A Book of Readings and Research presaged a generation of research and publications on development and nation building. In the 1970s Professor Shannon’s research interest turned to studies of delinquency and early adult crime. He is best known for his research on three birth cohorts from Racine, Wisconsin (1942, 1949 and 1955) using official police and court data. A stream of publications by Professor Shannon and his associates established that many factors contribute to the development of adult criminal careers.

His last four books represent varied interest. Two were based on the Racine birth cohorts – Criminal Career Continuity: Its Social Context (1988) and Alcohol and Drugs, Delinquency and Crime (1998). His book, Developing Areas: A Book of Readings and Research (1995) co-authored with Vijayan K. Pillai was a complete revision of his 1957 volume. In 1995 Professor Shannon published a ‘fun book’ filled with political wisdom from two cats. In Socks and Cretin: Two Democrats Helping Bill With the Presidency, Professor Shannon created a dialogue of correspondence between President Clinton’s cat, Socks and Lyle’s cat, Cretin.

Although Lyle was officially retired, he continued to have a daily presence in the Department of Sociology at the University of Iowa. Lyle was busy writing a history of the Department. His memories of the “old days” were always amusing – especially as told through the eyes of someone who remembered even the smallest of details. He generously supported the Center for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies through financial contributions and his presence at brown bag colloquiums and the Center’s guest speaker series.

Lyle was born in Storm Lake, Iowa in 1920. He is preceded in death by his historian spouse, Magdeline. He is survived by his four children, artist Mary Shannon Will of Calgary, Alberta and Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Hollywood film technician, Susan Michelle Shannon of Mission Hills, California, Robert William of Seattle, Washington, and John Thomas of Missoula, Montana.