Grover S. Krantz, world-renowned anthropologist and longtime Washington State University professor, died on February 14, 2002 in Port Angeles, Washington after an eight-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Professor Krantz, or Grover, as everyone knew him, was born November 5, 1931, in Salt Lake City. He obtained a B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.
After receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1968, Grover came to the Department of Anthropology at WSU in 1968. When he came to Pullman, Grover planned to spend a “couple of years at WSU.” Those couple of years turned into 30, until he retired in 1998.
Grover loved to teach and work with students. All of his courses were very popular, and his excellence in teaching was well known. Although very kind and soft-spoken, he was a physically imposing figure. He was 6 feet 3 inches tall and wore a full, untrimmed beard. He was a man of routine who had a plan for each day of the week and seldom varied from it. Grover was an easily recognizable figure on campus; he always wore a Swedish fishing cap, a four-pocket Safari jacket, and a two-pocket long-sleeved dress shirt.
Grover was a physical anthropologist specializing in hominoid (apes, including humans) evolution, human races, and the evolution of culture. However, he was trained in all of the subfields of anthropology and published articles in each. He was a prolific writer and published 10 books and over 60 refereed articles. In 1980, he published the first editions of his evolution and race books, The Process of Evolution and Climatic Races. His race book was one of the few to combine two aspects of the biology of race, climatic adaptations, and genetic variation. He later published The Geographical Development of European Language, in which he describes how and by whom Europe was settled and the origins of present-day Indo-European languages.
Some of his most noted contributions to the field include how persistent hunting led to the increase in brain size we see in Homo erectus and how the development of phonemic speech led to most of the changes we see in the skull of Homo erectus to anatomically modern Homo sapiens. On a smaller scale, he was the first to explain the function of the large and long mastoid process found only in anatomically modern Homo sapiens. He even published an article, “Noo Spell,” that outlined how the English language should be spelled phonetically.
Despite widespread criticism and damage to his professional reputation, Grover stood by the scientific evidence he gathered and the methods he used to support the existence of Sasquatch (Bigfoot). He even traveled to Russia and China to investigate similar stories of a very large bipedal ape.
Grover had many interests outside of anthropology but he always had a way of bringing his academic training and logic to a vast array of subjects, from a unified field theory in physics to how World War II should have been fought. Grover was a truly kind and sometimes too honest man who loved big dogs, especially Irish wolfhounds. He wrote a novel called Only a Dog, which is the story of his life with his first of three Irish wolfhounds, Clyde. He married Diane Horton on November 5, 1982.
Grover loved driving long distances with only his dog as his companion. He was the only person I know who really loved the national 55 mph speed limit. The 55 mph limit allowed him to think about subjects without distractions. He was proud that he had driven to all 48 continental states.
Grover is survived by his brother, Victor Krantz, wife, Diane Horton, a stepson, Dural Horton, and by thousands of students and many others whose lives he enriched. His service to science extends beyond his death. Grover’s skeleton and some of the casts of fossils he created will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution for research.
Donald Tyler is chair of the Department of Sociology/Anthropology/Justice Studies at the University of Idaho.
Donations in memory of Grover Krantz can be made to the student scholarship fund in the Department of Anthropology at WSU.