In Memoriam: Dr. Howard Jones, 1939-2022

This image shows Howard Jones with his arms crossed, leaning against a brick wall.Dr. Howard Jones, who was a Distinguished Research Professor at the University and a member of the Department of History for thirty-five years, passed away early in March after an illness. His accomplishments and his legacy are vast.

Dr. Jones was a specialist in American diplomatic history and the history of American foreign policy. He was the author of at least eight books and the editor of nearly half a dozen more, on subjects ranging from the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty between Great Britain and the United States, to diplomacy during the Civil War, to the Bay of Pigs invasion, to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and South Vietnamese President Diem, and to the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. Perhaps the book that made him best known outside the profession, however, is Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy, published in 1987. A study of the law and diplomacy surrounding the 1839 uprising on a transatlantic slaver, Mutiny on the Amistad was optioned for film and turned into a screenplay that became Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, which was released in 1997 and nominated for multiple Academy Awards.

But if you did not know how prolific a scholar Dr. Jones was, or if you had not heard about his brush with as much fame as academic historians ever really get, he would not be the one to tell you. Dr. Jones was careful about how he presented himself, always seeming to have come straight from the barbershop perfectly coiffed, clean shaven, and leaving a trail of aftershave or cologne in his wake. But he was humble about his productivity, devoted to his students, and never betrayed a sense that he considered himself special or above his colleagues, no matter how many titles or accolades came his way. Most people found that Dr. Jones would much rather talk about baseball or his family than about whatever book he was working on.

Dr. Jones was a kind and thoughtful colleague. He was committed to the service of the department, holding the role of department chairman for a number of years, and he taught a wide range of very popular courses. In 2015, a former student from one of those courses endowed a scholarship in his name, and every year on Honors Day, the department bestows the Howard Jones Endowed Scholarship to one or more outstanding undergraduates majoring or minoring in History. We have missed him since his retirement, and we will miss him more still moving forward.