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Principled former MSUM professor dies

David Flint, the outspoken former chairman of political science at Minnesota State University Moorhead, died of cancer Tuesday in Casa Grande, Ariz. He was 66.

David Flint, the outspoken former chairman of political science at Minnesota State University Moorhead, died of cancer Tuesday in Casa Grande, Ariz. He was 66.

Flint was born Feb. 21, 1936, in Park River, N.D., where he graduated from high school in 1954. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of North Dakota in 1961 and his doctorate degree in political science at Washington State University in 1969.

After teaching one year at the University of Idaho and three years at California State University, San Bernadino, Flint was hired by MSUM in 1971.

Former MSUM president Roland Dille, who hired Flint, remembered him Wednesday as someone who believed in absolute freedom of speech and separation of church and state.

"David, of course, was a splendid teacher," Dille said. "Constitutional law was really his field, and he was a real purist when it came to the Bill of Rights."

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Because of his views, Flint -- an ex-Marine and an atheist -- often butted heads with Dille.

"Our biggest quarrels were over Christmas," Dille said.

In 1989, after MSUM officials had already removed mistletoe from any location where it could be deemed offensive, Flint went a step further and asked the school to remove all Christmas decorations because, he said, they advanced a religion.

"State universities work to achieve cultural diversity, people different in race, place and religion," Flint said at the time. "At Christmas, to turn the whole campus into one giant Christmas festival is offensive. This is a state university, not a Christian one."

Despite their differences, the two men were friends and next-door neighbors, Dille said.

"He and I had a number of run-ins, but that was on principle," Dille said. "They never really interfered with our personal relationship."

MSUM political science professor Andrew Conteh, who was hired by Flint in 1985, described him as an intellectual who cared a lot about his country and minorities.

"He cared a lot about me," said Conteh, a native of Sierra Leone. "He cared a lot about my family. I will miss him. He was like an uncle to our children."

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As a professor and academic, Flint tackled human rights issues ranging from sex-based discrimination and pornography to prisoner rights, which he researched while on sabbatical in Costa Rica in 1988. In 1994, he received a Fulbright Scholar grant to teach U.S. constitutional law in Panama.

After retiring from MSUM in 1996, Flint began writing a column for his hometown newspaper while living in Tampa, Fla.

"The Flint File" often delved deep into national and world issues, and Flint was quick to criticize the Bush administration, said Mark Jensen, editor of the Walsh County Press.

"A couple times I had people in the area who said, when they read it, it would get their blood pressure going, but sometimes they said it also would open their eyes to the other side," Jensen said.

Funeral services were pending. Please see area death notice on page B4.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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