In Memoriam: Robert E. Staples

Robert Staples

NCFR member Robert E. Staples, Ph.D., died at age 79 in Australia on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. He was a member for 55 years.

Dr. Staples leaves behind a towering legacy in the family field as a prolific researcher and a leading authority of Black family life. He reached the rank of professor emeritus of sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, having began at this university in 1973. Prior to this appointment, he was a faculty member at Howard University, Fisk University, and California State University at Hayward. Dr. Staples concurrently served as a visiting professor at a number of institutions including Tougaloo College, Florida State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Hawaii, Cornell University, the Institute of Family Studies in Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Warwick, Coventry, England.

Dr. Staples earned his master's degree in sociology from San Jose State Univeristy and his doctorate in family sociology from the University of Minnesota. He has published over 200 articles in scholarly publications in countries around the world, and has written and edited an extensive list of books on Black families, many of which have been adopted as standard texts in more than 500 colleges and universities in the United States, Africa, the West Indies, and England. Among his books are Black Masculinity (1982), The Urban Plantation (1987), The Black Family: Essays and Studies (1991), and Black Families at the Crossroads (1993).

Dr. Staples was especially active as an NCFR member. He was a co-founder of the NCFR Black Caucus, along with Marie Peters, which later became the Ethnic Minorities Section, and is now the Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Families Section. He remained active in this section, such as delivering the oral history at the NCFR annual conference on several occasions. Dr. Staples was a member-at-large of the NCFR Board of Directors (1970-75) and on the editorial board of Journal of Marriage and Family (1971-77). He presented frequently at NCFR conferences and was a plenary presenter at the 2001 conference, giving a presentation titled “Black Families and Stress: Close Synonyms of the Third Kind.”

For his many contributions, Dr. Staples was awarded the first Ethnic Minorities Section Award for outstanding achievement in 1981, the NCFR Distinguished Achievement Award in 1982, and in 1986, received the Marie F. Peters Award for significant contributions to the area of ethnic minority families in 1986.


Dr. Staples will be recognized during the annual memorial service at the 2020 NCFR Annual Conference. The names of any NCFR members who have recently died are read aloud at this service. Members who have served as an NCFR board member, journal editor, or are conferred NCFR Fellow status are given a eulogy.

If you learn of an NCFR member who has passed away, please email Trip Sullivan.