Professor Emeritus of Economics
UC Los Angeles
1924 - 2015
George Murphy, a longtime UCLA economics professor with a passion for singing, died January 2 of natural causes and health complications due to diabetes. He was 90. Beyond his work at UCLA, Murphy was a World War II veteran who stormed Gold Beach on D-Day and an amateur opera singer who pursued his passion to the Hollywood Bowl dressed in a tuxedo to sing in front of 8,000 people.
After the army discharged him in 1947, one of Murphy’s military advisors encouraged him to pursue economics at a university, though Murphy often said his real reason for studying economics was to avoid taking Latin again. Murphy planned to go into British politics after graduating from the University of Bristol, but a teaching assistant offer at the University of Oregon brought him to the United States in 1950. He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Washington soon after.
Starting at UCLA in 1961 as an assistant professor of economics, Murphy specialized in comparative systems, economic history and socialist theory. He transitioned to a professor emeritus status in 1993 and taught his last class in winter quarter of 2010, said Nancy Blumstein.
Murphy worked to analyze economics in countries around the world during the Cold War. His expertise on European economics gave him the opportunity to travel to many places, including the former Soviet Union and Mongolia.
On the West Coast, Murphy found his love for sailing, Greg Murphy said. He would go sailing on weekends in Santa Barbara when he was teaching at Stanford and UCLA, often bringing his children along so they could share in the experience. He also kept up several small traditions within the family, such as bringing back special trinkets after long trips or taking his children swimming at the UCLA Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.
For the last few decades of his life, Murphy participated in amateur opera companies so he could follow one of his truest passions – singing. The pinnacle of his amateur opera career came when he was invited as part of the chorus to perform at the Hollywood Bowl for an 8,000 person audience.