Political Science Prof. Hanes Walton Jr. died Monday, according to the American Political Science Association. He was 72.
Walton was known affectionately among students for his memorable lectures filled with anecdotes and jokes about politicians and current affairs. He was equally esteemed by his colleagues in the world of political science: He was elected vice president of the American Political Science Association earlier this year and was a prominent researcher at the Institute for Social Research.
The cause of his passing is still unclear. Walton was scheduled to teach two classes this semester, and students were notified that his first lectures have been canceled. University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said arrangements for Professor Walton Jr.’s classes have not been finalized yet.
“You could say we are in a state of flux,” Fitzgerald said.
After receiving a Ph.D. in Government from Howard University in 1967, Walton went on to teach at Savannah State College, Atlanta University and the University of Georgia before arriving at the University in 1992.
In the course of 40 years, Walton’s extensive worked and researched extensively on African American participation in the American political system, including publishing 21 books and textbooks.
Walton co-authored American Politics and the African-American Quest for Universal Freedom — a textbook is in its sixth edition — with Robert C. Smith. Walton also served on numerous editorial boards for political science journals and won the 2008 Best Paper award from American Journal of Political Science.
Prof. Charles Shipan, chair of the Political Science department, wrote in an statement that Walton was a “major figure” in political science and was a “pioneer” in his field.
“And perhaps most importantly, he was a warm and generous man, one who was renowned for his wonderful sense of humor,” Shipan wrote. “His passing is a great loss for the Department and the University.”
Students fondly remember Walton for his lectures and engaging personality.
LSA junior Chris Mays said Walton was always making jokes that made the material easy to learn and recall.
“He was always in direct communication with his students — he was always trying to reach them at a personal level,” Mays said. “He would challenge you in his own unique way.”
He added that Walton inspired him to become a political science major.
University alum Theresa Bodwin wrote in an e-mail interview that she remembered his passionate, rambling remarks about anything from “love letters between John Adams and his wife” to German chocolate cake.”
And although his teaching methods were unorthodox, Bodwin said Walton was an incredible professor.
“I am sad for my loss, but more sad for the students loss,” Bodwin wrote. “Hanes was truly an inspirational professor that did not follow rules.”
Former students also shared Bodwin’s grief and respect for Walton on social media. Students wrote on Twitter about their fondness for Walton’s anecdotes and their experience of him as a professor.
University alum Ghida Dagher wrote on Twitter that she was “shocked and saddened” by Walton’s passing.
“He was a great man and professor. Definitely one of a kind.”
Story updated: This story has been updated with statements from the chair of the department of Political Science and from a University spokesperson.