James G. Watson ’61 died on March 30, 2010, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
(The following appeared in Bowdoin Magazine, Summer 2011:)
James Gray Watson ’61, a leading scholar of William Faulkner, died March 30, 2010, in Tulsa. His career was sparked by a lacrosse injury at Bowdoin. While recovering in the infirmary, he read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and was so moved that he dismissed his plans for medical school to pursue the study of literature. That decision served him well. He taught for 40 years at the University of Tulsa, serving as the Frances W. O’Hornett Professor of Literature. He was recognized for his commitment to his students with the Outstanding University Professor Award in 1982, the Certificate of Honor from the University’s Multicultural Affairs Committee in 1991, and the Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2002. He was named the 2007 Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge Mentor of the Year, and was the University of Tulsa’s commencement speaker in December 2008. He was the author of William Faulkner: Self-Presentation and Performance (2000) and The Snopes Dilemma: Faulkner’s Trilogy (1971), among others, and was the editor of Thinking of Home: William Faulkner’s Letters to His Mother and Father, 1918-1925. Most recently, his scholarly interests were focused on the writer and naturalist Peter Matthiessen. Many in the community knew him as a guest lecturer for the Tulsa CityCounty Library and other venues, where he helped spread enthusiasm for literature and learning. He was born on June 16, 1939, in Baltimore, Md., and prepared for college at Philips Andover Academy and Shady Side Academy. After Bowdoin, where he was a member of Zeta Psi fraternity, he went on to earn a master’s degree in 1963 and a doctorate in English in 1968, both at the University of Pittsburgh. He spent four years teaching at the University of Keele in England in the 1980s. He is survived by Ann Boyles Watson, his wife of 47 years; two sons, Bill and Rick Watson; a sister, Kate MacVean; and four grandchildren. He was predeceased by a brother, Thomas M. Watson ’68.