Published: May 7, 1994
John P. Roche, a political scientist, counselor to Presidents and emeritus professor at Tufts University, died yesterday at Youville Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. A resident of Weston, Mass. he was 70.
The cause was complications after a stroke, a Tufts announcement said. He had taught at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts since 1973.
He reached emeritus status as the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of American Civilization and Foreign Affairs last August, but he continued to teach into this year. His main areas of scholarship were political theory, constitutional law and the formative era of the American Republic.
Professor Roche was a prolific author of books and articles. He was also a syndicated columnist, and once described his politics as “Social Democrat.” He was a consultant to John F. Kennedy when Kennedy was a Senator and later when he was President. He was also a special adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966 to 1968.
John Pearson Roche, a native of Brooklyn, graduated from Hofstra College in 1943 and earned a Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1949, which he attended on the G.I. Bill. He had served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, reaching the rank of staff sergeant.
In the 1950’s he was active in the civil-rights movement. He was a cofounder of Americans for Democratic Action and served as its president from 1962 to 1965. In the 1960’s, he also wrote speeches for Hubert H. Humphrey, beginning when Humphrey was a Senator and later Vice President.
Professor Roche’s governmental positions included service on the Eisenhower Commission on International Radio Broadcasting, the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, and, most recently, the President’s Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament.
His academic career started at Haverford College in 1949. In 1956, he joined the faculty of Brandeis University as Christian Herter Professor of Politics and History. He established the university’s Department of Government and served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1958 to 1961.
Over the years, he was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Aix-en-Provence, France, and was also a visiting professor at Swarthmore College, Cornell University, Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago.
At Tufts, besides teaching, he was at times academic dean, acting dean and dean ad interim. Years as Columnist
After his White House service under President Johnson, Professor Roche wrote a syndicated column titled “A Word Edgewise” for 14 years. It drew readers not only from among liberals but also conservatives, who strongly disagreed with him. He also shared writing duties with Patrick J. Buchanan and Kevin Phillips, among others, for the “Newswatch” column in TV Guide, and his articles appeared in many other publications.
Professor Roche’s best known academic work was “The Founding Fathers, a Reform Caucus in Action,” which was printed by the American Political Science Review. Among his books were “Courts and Rights” (1961), “The Quest for the Dream: Civil Liberties in Modern America” (1963), “Shadow and Substance: Studies in the Theory and Structure of Politics” (1964), and “Sentenced to Life: Reflections on Politics, Education and Law” (1974).
He was a past Fellow of the Hudson Institute, a member of the National Council on the Humanities, a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a trustee of the Dubinsky Foundation and a director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
Professor Roche is survived by his wife of 47 years, Constance Ludwig Roche; a daughter, Joanna Roche of Weston; a brother, Robert, of Wynnewood, Pa. and a granddaughter.
Photo: John P. Roche (Frank Wolfe, 1968)