The Probasco Chair isn’t sitting still.
Fresh off the heels of hosting a successful three-day academic conference commemorating the accomplishments of noted finance professor Harold A. Black, Probasco Distinguished Chair of Free Enterprise Claudia Williamson Kramer is bringing a Wall Street Journal opinion columnist to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Jason Riley will visit UTC on Thursday, Sept. 22, for a discussion titled “Why Thomas Sowell Matters.” The event, which will also include a book signing and reception, begins at 5 p.m. in the University Center Tennessee Room.
The event, open to the public, centers on Riley’s book “Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell.” Riley will discuss Sowell’s scholarship and how it relates to ongoing debates about inequality, race, school choice and social justice.
“Jason Riley’s approach to discussing and analyzing our current political and economic issues, including immigration and racial disparities, embodies the mission of the Probasco Chair—which is to promote conversations on the consequences of free enterprise,” said Williamson Kramer, who was appointed the Scott L. Probasco Jr. Distinguished Chair of Free Enterprise in 2020.
She called Sowell—a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and an economist, political commentator, social theorist and author—one of the greats of our time, saying he is “a leading economic and social theorist who uses real-world data to support his claims.”
“He has written over 30 books on topics ranging from race, political theory, school choice, racial and gender disparities and culture,” she said. “Sowell’s unapologetic support of free enterprise as a solution to social ills has not won him many friends from the liberal orthodoxy or mainstream media, but Sowell’s importance and contribution cannot be overstated.
“Mr. Riley’s work brings to life the important legacy of the icon, Thomas Sowell.”
Attendees are requested to RSVP for the event. Those who register will get Riley’s book for free while supplies last.
Among those expected to attend the discussion is Black, professor emeritus of finance at UT Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.
On Sept. 8-10, the first-ever Dr. Harold A. Black Academic Conference took place at the historic Read House in downtown Chattanooga, sponsored by the Probasco Distinguished Chair of Free Enterprise, the UT Knoxville Haslam College of Business and the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University.
The conference showcased papers from 10 authors and five co-authors that directly examined, extended or built on Black’s scholarship.
Black’s research focuses primarily on discrimination in the financial industry. A paper he co-authored in 1978 was one of the first to quantify bias in lending decisions. His empirical research sheds light on how some laws meant to aid minorities may harm them.
His articles have been published in numerous leading journals, and his many honors include being appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the first National Credit Union Administration Board; being a visiting scholar at both the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office; and serving as chairman of the Nashville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Williamson Kramer called Black “a trailblazer in all aspects of his life.” He integrated the University of Georgia’s freshman class in 1962 and was the first African American student to enroll at the UGA Terry College of Business.
“His research was the first to attempt to quantify and demonstrate racial biases in mortgage lending decisions,” she said. “The legacy of his scholarship shows that increasing competition is often a driving force behind reducing the probability of lending bias and that freer markets allow for more, not fewer, opportunities for all, including minorities.
“The research and public discourse that I promote through the Probasco Chair builds off Dr. Black’s groundbreaking work. That is why it was such an honor to host the first Dr. Harold A. Black Academic Conference in Chattanooga.”
Due to the proximity of UTC to MTSU, Williamson Kramer and Political Economy Research Institute Director Daniel J. Smith often collaborate to produce educational programming.
“We were very thrilled to have the opportunity to work with my colleague Dr. Williamson Kramer and our education partners to help organize this conference, not only to celebrate Dr. Black’s accomplishments but to advance his scholarship with new literature on race and discrimination,” Smith said.
The keynote address, “Race, Risk and Greed: Harold Black’s Contributions to the Institutional Economics of Finance,” was presented by Duke University Professor of Political Science Michael Munger.