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The University of Alabama

Long-time UA Professor, Administrator Douglas E. Jones Dies

Dr. Douglas E. Jones

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Douglas E. Jones, professor emeritus of geological sciences at The University of Alabama and curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History, died April 2, 2010 after a brief illness. He was 79.

Jones, a 1952 UA alumnus and Tuscaloosa native, spent his entire 38-year professional career at the University. He began teaching in the department of geology-geography in 1958, and he was later named head of the department.

Jones was an influential administrator at UA, serving in executive positions during a period of expansion and growth at the Capstone. He served in the following capacities: dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1969-1984); director of UA Museums (1984-1997); dean of University Libraries (1984-1986); and acting vice president for academic affairs (1988-1990).

“The College of Arts and Sciences and The University of Alabama has lost one of the finest citizens of our institution,” said Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Jones was not only a skilled geologist and researcher, but a caring and inspiring teacher and a visionary and an effective administrator.

“He was always ready to serve when called and, as a senior administrator, helped guide our institution during a time of rapid growth and development.”

Dr. E. Roger Sayers, former UA president, said Jones’ allegiance to UA was unwavering.

“He probably placed the University above self,” Sayers said. “He had that much love and respect for its history and traditions and certainly did everything he could to help strengthen the University during his long career and many different roles.”

Sayers said he has many fond memories of fishing and going duck hunting with Jones.

Jones retired from UA in 1996 but maintained close ties with the university. In recent years, he had been reorganizing and cataloging the Museum of Natural History’s invertebrate collection of more than 10,000 specimens, and he had been active with the UA department of geological science’s advisory board, as well as Moundville Archaeological Park.

He had active professional relationships with the Alabama Geological Society, the Geological Society of America, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Economic Paleontologist and Mineralogist and the Society of Sigma XI.  He was listed in American Men of Science.

An avid geologist and historian, Jones was known for his outback explorations of Alabama’s countryside. He was especially interested in identifying the legendary site of Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto’s 1540 battle with a band of Mississippian Indians.

He participated in a 2006 conference of scholars at UA that sought to shed light on that location and authored a paper that was part of the award-winning book “The Search for Mabila: The Decisive Battle Between Hernando De Soto and Chief Tascalusa.” Jones served as chairman of the Alabama De Soto Commission and De Soto Trail Commission from 1985 to 1990.

He also authored and edited a number of articles and books on geology, paleontology, 16th century Spanish explorations in the Americas and gold prospecting in New Guinea. He was especially fond of Civil War history and was known at one time for his outstanding collection of antique guns and Civil War memorabilia. He also enjoyed refurbishing and driving antique cars.

Jones was a member of the American Men of Science, served as a consultant in engineering geology and oil and gas and minerals exploration, and he was active in many professional, scientific and civic organizations. He received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1997 and an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree in 2003, both from the University of Alabama. He was a trustee of the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville, Va., and past-chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Nature Conservancy of Alabama.

Jones was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on May 28, 1930. He received his B.S. in geology from the University of Alabama in 1952 and his Ph.D. in geology and paleontology from Louisiana State University in 1959. He served as U.S. Army engineer officer in France from 1952-1954 and continued his service for 14 years as engineer and military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He was a member of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. He was a longtime elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa.

Jones began directing the UA Museum of Natural History in 1986, which had been influenced for many years by his father, Walter Bryan Jones, who served as state geologist of Alabama. Jones continued to serve on the museum’s board of directors until his death.

The dedication of Jones and his father to the Moundville Archaeological Park led to its increased collections and importance as a historical site. A challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation will soon help renovate and expand the Jones Museum, named for Walter B. Jones, Hazel Phelps Jones, Doug Jones, Warren Jones and Nelson Jones.

Dr. Joab Thomas, former UA president, said Jones will be greatly missed.

“He was an extremely nice guy and a good personal friend, one of the best,” Thomas said. “He was an excellent scientist and an excellent teacher. He really cared for students, and he also was a very thoughtful and skilled administrator. He was one of the finest deans you could ever hope to work with.”

Jones was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Walter B. Jones and Hazel P. Jones; and a brother, Nelson Jones.

Survivors include his wife, Bonnie Cook Jones; two daughters, Susan Jones Driggers (Bobby) and ElizabethJones Halsey (Steve), both of Birmingham: a son, Walter Bryan Jones II (Ann) of Atlanta; a brother, Warren Phelps Jones (Martha), of Huntsville; and six grandchildren: Elizabeth Avery Driggers, Caroline Cook Driggers, William Stephenson Halsey IV, Katherine Tannahill Halsey, Catherine Hauser Jones and Grace Douglas Jones.

A memorial service will be held today at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, followed by a visitation in the Family Life Center. Burial will follow in the Jones family plot at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts be made to the Douglas E. Jones Scholarship at the University of Alabama, P.O. Box 870122, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35478-0122,  The First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, or Hospice of West Alabama.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Angie Estes, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,