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Classical Studies mourns the passing of J. Ward Jones

J. Ward Jones

Chancellor Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies Julian Ward Jones Jr. passed away on August 28, 2021. He was born on July 11, 1930, in Essex County, Virginia and grew up in Fredericksburg. He graduated in 1948 from James Monroe High School as valedictorian. He read Latin at the University of Richmond. During the period 1953-1955, he served as a dental technician in the US Army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and still found time to read Homer. He pursued a PhD in Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he met his wife, Liz, whom he called, “the most brilliant linguist I ever knew.” After two years of teaching at Ohio State University, he accepted a position as Associate Professor at William & Mary in the Department of Ancient Languages in 1961. In his long career at W&M, Professor Jones served as Chair of the Department for over ten years and was instrumental in revising its curriculum and renaming it as the Department of Classical Studies. He also served as the President of several important professional organizations, including the Classical Association of Virginia, the Southern Section of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, and the Mediterranean Society of America.

Professor Jones’ publications include two editions of medieval commentaries on Vergil's Aeneid, and many other works on Vergil and the legend of the sack of Troy over the course of his career. He also edited and translated from the Latin documents for the Swem Library Special Collections that dealt with the early history of the College. As William & Mary transitioned from a small liberal arts college to a leading liberal-arts university, Professor Jones remained a voice of conscience for the importance of teaching to our profession. Whether in advanced Latin classes, in the Greek and Roman history courses that he introduced to W&M, or in his perennially popular courses on Pompeii and Roman Britain, Professor Jones’ devotion to teaching and to his students has enriched the experience of thousands of William & Mary alumni and alumnae and has led to their lasting gratitude.

After 40 years of service, Professor Jones retired from full-time teaching at William and Mary in 2001, but his interest in classical scholarship remained strong and he continued his travels to ancient lands along with his wife, Elizabeth Jones, also a Classics Professor. He kept teaching about Roman Britain, Pompeii, and other topics for the College’s Christopher Wren Association. Upon his retirement, W&M students, alumni, and friends established an endowment for an annual lecture in his name, honoring his legacy in the Department of Classical Studies in teaching, research, and service.

Professor Jones is survived by two sons, Gordon Bradford Jones of Falls Church, Virginia, and Douglas Ward Jones, of Williamsburg, Virginia; a daughter-in-law, Presie Supremo Jones, and two grandsons, Xavier Supremo Jones and Zachary Moreno Jones, all of Williamsburg. He was predeceased by his wife of fifty-four years, Elizabeth Frances Hunter Jones, and by his sister, Dorothy Irene Wilkerson. A funeral will be held on Wednesday, September 1 at Nelsen Funeral Home, in Williamsburg.

Reflecting on his career at W&M, Professor Jones recently wrote for the Classical Studies alumni newsletter: “The principal charm [of W&M] was the succession of bright and eager students I taught. I would go to regional and national meetings, and professors from other schools would tell me that at last they were teaching a student who was being lured by some famous graduate program. I reflected that I had a student like that that in almost every advanced course I had taught at William & Mary. Needless to say, I, having retired a few years ago (2001), find myself longing for the good old days—days of engaged students and congenial colleagues.”