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Harford County resident William B. Allen, left, is the 16th recipient of the prestigous Hery Salvatori Prize that recognizes distinguished contributions to conservative political thought. He is with his longtime friend and grade school classmate Louis Quarterman at the prize award dinner in Philadelphia on Nov. 8.
Harford County resident William B. Allen, left, is the 16th recipient of the prestigous Hery Salvatori Prize that recognizes distinguished contributions to conservative political thought. He is with his longtime friend and grade school classmate Louis Quarterman at the prize award dinner in Philadelphia on Nov. 8. (Courtesy of Carol Allen / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A Havre de Grace pastor, author and retired university educator is this year's winner of the Henry Salvatori Prize, an annual award given to people who promote conservative political thought and the governing principles of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

"It's an honor that I'm very happy to [accept]," William B. Allen, the recipient, said Wednesday.

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Allen, 70, grew up in Fernandina Beach, Fla., and has lived in Havre de Grace since 2008. He is a retired professor and dean of the James Madison College at Michigan State University.

The college offers four majors, including comparative cultures and politics, political theory and constitutional democracy, international relations and social relations and policy, according to the college website.

Allen is a founder of the Claremont Institute in Claremont, Calif., where the Henry Salvatori Prize in the American Founding was established in 1997, according to a news release from the institute.

Allen is the 16th recipient of the prize, and he is the first African-American man to win the prize. He taught political philosophy at James Madison College.

Previous winners include nationally-known conservative figures such as Edwin Meese, who served as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, newspaper columnist George F. Will and William F. Buckley Jr., the author, editor and television host who, according to his 2008 obituary in The New York Times, made conservatism "respectable in liberal post-World War II America."

The Claremont Institute's mission is to "teach the practical application of the principles of the American Founding to the next generation of Conservative leaders, and to build them into a community dedicated to preserving constitutional government," according to its website.

The Salvatori Prize was presented to Allen Nov. 8 during the institute's fellowship alumni conference in Philadelphia.

"To me, what it means to be conservative is to be devoted to the founding principles of the United States," Allen explained.

Henry Salvatori, an Italian immigrant to the U.S., died in 1997 at 96, according to his obituary in The Los Angeles Times.

He founded an oil company in the 1930s, and he was the leader of the group of advisers who convinced Reagan, a Hollywood actor, to run for governor of California in 1966. The group was known as Reagan's "kitchen cabinet," according to a biography posted on the website of the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College, also in Claremont, Calif.

Salvatori also supported the 1964 presidential campaign of Republican Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. Goldwater lost to Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson.

Allen, who also worked for Goldwater's campaign, met Salvatori when he was in college, and they remained in touch over the years.

"He took note of the young political activist in college," Allen said of Salvatori.

He said winning the prize is "not all together a surprise," considering his long association with Salvatori and the Claremont Institute.

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"I see this as a closing of the circle," he said.

Allen said he is in Havre de Grace, where he retired, "by Providence." He is an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Havre de Grace, and he is a member of the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health board of directors.

He is a former member of the boards of directors for the foundations of Upper Chesapeake and the Harford County Public Library, according to the news release.

Allen is also the Miller and Veritas Fund Senior Fellow in America's Founding Principles and History at the Villanova University's Matthew J. Ryan Center, and he is the author of four books. Subjects include George Washington, and author Harriet Beecher Stowe and her 1852 novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which tells the stories of fictional slaves.

Allen said he follows the principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal." He also believes that "there is no just government, except the government that derives from the consent of the governed."

"That's what makes America, America," he explained.

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