The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Paul Beckett, 1938 – 2022

MADISON – Paul Anthony Hamilton Beckett, 83, a long-time resident of Madison, WI, died Saturday, June 25, 2022, of a massive stroke. Paul, also known to many as Skip, was born to Paul L. and Harriet Marie Hamilton Beckett on September 19, 1938, in Baton Rouge, LA.

He was raised in Pullman, WA, where he attended Washington State University, graduating Cum Laude in 1960. He received a Fulbright Scholarship (1960-1961) and studied in France, after which he served in the US Army Reserves while working at the Bureau of Budget in Washington D.C. It was there in the summer of 1963, that he met his wife Kathleen Beckett, nee Jackson. They were married in her hometown of Oakland, ca, on July 11, 1964.

In 1965, the couple moved to Madison, WI, where Paul attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, from which Paul earned his Ph.D. in Political Science and African Studies under Professor M. Crawford Young in 1968.

Moving to West Lafayette, IN, Paul taught political science at Purdue University, while also applying for teaching positions in West Africa. His dream of working in Africa became a reality after he received a telegram from Prof. James O’Connell, Chair of Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. O’Connell asked, “Can you come soonest?” To which Paul replied “Yes.”

From 1969 to 1975, Paul taught Political Science at A.B.U., where he forged long-term friendships with students and colleagues that would influence the rest of his life – along with developing a deep fascination with Nigeria as a whole. It was also in Nigeria, that Paul and Kathleen’s son, Patrick was born.

In 1978, Paul accepted a position as Assistant Chair of the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He remained at the university until his retirement in 1999.

Retirement allowed Paul the opportunity to explore and support many political and social causes – as well as develop personal hobbies. He was active in the Dudgeon Monroe Neighborhood Association (DMNA) and acted as Chair of the Bike Path Committee for what is now known as the Southwest Bike Path. He also served as President of the DMNA.

In recent years, he helped build tiny homes for homeless in the Madison area, worked with the Beacon homeless day resource center, delivered food for The River Food Pantry, and was active with both the United Nations Association–USA Dane County and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP).

As part of his involvement with the community around Antigo, WI, Paul wrote a book about the history of Moose Lake area.

Most recently – and perhaps most significantly for him – was Paul’s involvement with Just Dane’s Circles of Support, a group providing support for paroled prisoners.

His friends can attest that he was a person of great warmth and wit, and with a huge generosity of spirit. He was also known to many as a lover of the outdoors and “all things bicycle” – taking bike tours through Denmark and Germany with his wife and family, he was also a member of several local cycling groups. He loved spending time in the woods and forests of Wisconsin, the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming.

Paul is survived by his wife, Kathleen; their son, Patrick; daughter-in-law, Maria; and two grandchildren: Raja and Ziggy.

A Memorial will be held at 3:00 p.m. on July 7, 2022, at the Friends Meeting House, 1704 Roberts Ct, Madison, WI, 53711.

Donations to the charities to which Paul recently devoted his energies are encouraged, i.e. The Beacon Homeless Day Resource Center ( and Just Dane (

Cress Funeral & Cremation Services
3610 Speedway Road
(608) 238-3434
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