Louis Anthony Zurcher, Jr., sociologist and university professor, was born on May 13, 1936, at San Francisco, California, to Kathleen Ursula and Louis Anthony Zurcher, Sr. Zurcher grew up in San Francisco, where he attended a Jesuit High School. Following high school he enlisted in the United States Navy and served for four years. He received a B.A. from the University of San Francisco in 1961, a M.A. in psychology from the University of Arizona in 1963, and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Arizona in 1965. Zurcher began his career with an appointment as a research social psychologist at the William A. Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. In 1968 he was appointed assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He was appointed associate professor in 1969 and professor in 1973. He served as acting departmental chairman in the department of sociology (1974–75) and as associate dean in the office of graduate studies (1976–77). During 1978–79 he served as associate university provost and dean of the graduate school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Virginia. In 1979 he returned to the University of Texas at Austin as a professor of social work and sociology in the school of social work. In 1980–81 he served as acting dean.
Zurcher's research studies included a study of community leaders in an antipoverty program (Poverty Warriors, 1970); a study of community response to disaster (Tornado, 1970); a study of antipornography crusades (Citizens for Decency, 1976); and in particular a long-term study of the citizen volunteer in the Naval Reserve (Citizen Sailors in a Changing Society, 1986). He was widely recognized for his theoretical contributions in The Mutable Self: A Self-Concept for Social Change (1977) and Social Roles: Conformity, Conflict and Creativity (1983) as well as through numerous articles. Zurcher authored sixteen books and served as a consulting editor or member of the editorial board of thirteen journals. He was a series editor of a monograph series Contemporary Studies in Applied Behavioral Science. He was most widely recognized for his editorship of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science from 1979 until his death.
Zurcher was elected to membership in Alpha Kappa Delta (National Honor Society in Sociology), Psi Chi (National Honor Society in Psychology), Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Phi. He was elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association in 1979 and fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues in 1980. He received the Lora Lee Pederson Teaching Excellence Award from the school of social work in 1985. In 1983 he was appointed an Ashbel Smith Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Zurcher was a member of the American Sociological Association, International Sociological Association, American Psychological Association, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Southwestern Sociological Association, National Training Laboratory Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, Association of Voluntary Action Scholars (president, 1979–80), Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (president, 1987). Zurcher served as a petty officer in the United States Navy from 1955 to 1959. Following this tour of duty he joined the Medical Service Corps, United States Naval Reserve. He was an active reservist throughout his academic career and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1987. He was a member of the Army and Navy Club and the Naval Reserve Association. Zurcher died on December 10, 1987. He was survived by his wife, Susan Lee Shrum Zurcher. They had three children.