Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hanes Walton Jr. remembered for his humor and dedication to students

Hanes Walton Jr., a professor of political science known for his research, humor and dedication to students, died Monday at age 72.

Colleagues and former students fondly remembered the scholar for his positive influence through his teaching and advising, as well as his contributions to political science.

  Hanes Walton Jr.

"Professor Walton also was a pioneer in terms of his research," said Charles Shipan, chair of the Department of Political Science. "This was especially true in the area of race in American politics, where his influence cannot be overstated, but also in other areas, such as political parties, the presidency, and urban politics. And perhaps most importantly, he was a warm and generous man, one who was renowned for his wonderful sense of humor. His passing is a great loss for the department and the university."

Walton, who also was a research professor at the Center for Political Studies, was a life member of the American Political Science Association and served in several roles, including his recent election as vice president.

Dianne Pinderhughes, recent APSA president, added that Walton “was a prolific scholar as well as teacher and mentor, and the field of black politics, American politics and the discipline of political science has lost an unmatched contributor.”

"Dr. Walton tirelessly, and with great joy and dedication, mentored generations of young scholars, many of whom are now full professors," said Michael Brintnall, APSA executive director. "He enjoyed challenging and engaging students in the classroom and was a much respected and well-liked professor and teacher. He has left political science a much better place, and he will be sorely missed."

Scott Bell, a 2008 U-M graduate, said he'll always remember attending the three courses Walton taught, and how he kept students engaged with "off-track moments … strategically placed in the middle of 90-minute lectures when typical students are dozing off or starting to surf the Web."

"I'm convinced Hanes Walton was allergic to monotonous learning environments," said Bell, now an assistant sports editor at the Dallas Morning News. "Almost five years removed from my last class at Michigan, I can count on one half of one hand the number of professors and lecturers I'm certain I'll remember for the rest of my life. Professor Walton most certainly makes that list, and it's a testament to his unique yet effective style of reaching his students."

One of Walton’s early students, Marion Orr, a professor of political science at Brown University, added that he took his first political science course from Walton while a student at Savannah State College.

"After taking Walton's course, I told my parents I wanted to become a college professor. The personal attention he gave me and the other small number of political science majors left an indelible imprint,” he said.

Walton was born in Augusta, Ga., on Sept. 25, 1941, and was educated in the public schools of Athens, Ga., where he graduated with honors in 1959.

He attended Morehouse College, majoring in political science and graduating in 1963. he received a Master of Arts degree from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) and was the first doctorate in government at Howard University in 1967. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha, and received several other academic awards.

Walton came to U-M in 1992 after teaching stints at Savannah State College and Atlanta University.

He wrote books on black politics, "Invisible Politics: Black Political Behavior, American Political Parties," "The Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King. Jr.," "When the Marching Stopped: The Politics of Civil Rights Regulatory Agencies," "Presidential Elections, 1789-2008," and the two-volume work, "The African American Electorate: A Statistical History."