UAH was first established as an Extension Center of the University of Alabama. The idea of a Huntsville Center was conceived by Mr. Pat Richardson, a law student at the University of Alabama and later a part-time instructor at UAH. From its inception, the curriculum continued to grow, and with it, its number of enrollees which led to the creation of UAH as an autonomous university within the University of Alabama System in 1969.
Political science has been among the academic offerings of UAH since it was first established, including fifteen different courses in American government, foreign governments, international relations, and political philosophy. The bachelors and masters degrees of administrative science in political science were authorized in 1971. These degree programs were established under the leadership of a political scientist by the name of Donald W. Smithsburg to prepare individuals for positions in public and private management.
The University was reorganized into departments and an independent Department of Political Science was founded in 1972. Dr. Thomas Williams was appointed to Chair the Political Science department in 1980. Upon his arrival, there was only one full-time faculty member and two vacant positions. Turbulence, reorganization, budget and faculty limitations, and committee reviews constrained the department from 1980 to 1988. After the disarray settled, a more modern approach to the field of study was established and the degrees were redesginated as a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Arts in Public Affairs. The Department of Political Science has flourished since.