July 2, 2008

HARRISONBURG--Dr. William R. (Dick) Nelson, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Law and Head Emeritus of the Department of Political Science at James Madison University, passed away on Monday, June 30, 2008. The Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, originally the William R. Nelson Institute for Public Affairs, was established in 1998 by Dr. Ronald Carrier, fourth president of JMU, as a tribute to Dr. Nelson.

Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute, issued the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened byt he death of Dr. William R. Nelson. Our condolences go out to his widow, Dr. Eileen Schmitt Nelson, and other members of the family, who will certainly be in our thoughts and prayers.

"Dick Nelson served his country with dinstinction, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force. He was also a distinguished scholar and educator who, many years before it became the fashionable thing to do, inaugurated James Madison University's first course on terrorism and political violence.

"We are honored to bear the name of this fine scholar and patriot as we continue his work of engaging faculty members, students, and the community in major issues affecting our nation's security and interests around the globe."

A memorial service will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 3, at Sonner Hall on the JMU campus.



Dr. William R. Nelson's Obituary from the Daily News Record, July 2, 2008:

William R. Nelson

Dr. William R. (Dick) Nelson, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.) passed away Monday, June 30, 2008, at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. He had been a resident of Harrisonburg for the last 35 years. Dr. Nelson was born Feb. 5, 1924, in Colton, Calif., and was the son of the late William Gunther and Vera Maughan Nelson.

Dick was matriculating at the University of Utah when WWII began. He had to wait until his eighteenth birthday to join the Army Air Corps. After training in Kansas with the 20th Air Force, 793rd Squadron, 468th Bomb Group, Dick was sent to India where he served as a navigator flying The Hump in B-29s. Dick completed 35 bombing missions– the last on the day the Japanese accepted the Potsdam ultimatum– with 427 combat hours.

After the war, Dick returned to the University of Utah where he completed a law degree before returning to the Air Force, stationed in California where he served with the 3535th Air Training Command. In 1950 he was stationed in Guam with the 54th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron serving as Squadron Chief Navigator, after which he served as Division Navigator with the 76th Air Transport Service in the United Nations Counter Offensive in Korea with the 8th Air Force. In 1955 Dick was appointed Instructor in the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and completed his Masters of Law Degree at New York University.

In 1958 Dick served as Project Officer for Default Terminations, Director of Prosecutions and Director of Prosecution and Pardons at Headquarters Army Materiel Command, Wright Patterson Air Force Base. During this time he also taught at the University of Dayton and completed his Master of Arts Degree in Political Science at Miami University. Dick was transferred to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Here he served for eight years as Deputy for Administration, Deputy Department Head and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. During this time Dick also completed his Ph.D. in American Studies. In 1969, after 27 years of service, Dick retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel.

During his Air Force tenure, Dick received numerous decorations and awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross (with 1 oak leaf cluster), World War II Victory Medal, American Medal (with 4 oak leaf clusters), United States Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal (with 1 oak leaf cluster), Air Medal (with 4 oak leaf clusters and 4 battle service stars), Korean Service Medal, U.N. Korean Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon (with 6 battle service stars), Air Force Recognition of Excellence Medal, Air Force Legal Services Medal (with 4 oak leaf clusters), and National Defense Service Medal (with 1 bronze service star). During the course of his career he achieved qualifications as International Politico-Military Affairs Officer (Foreign Service Officer); Top Secret Security Clearance; Admitted to Practice Law, U.S. District Court, Washington D.C.; Admitted to Practice Law, U.S. Supreme Court; Washington D.C., Admitted to Practice Law, Courts of the State of Tennessee.

After his retirement from the Air Force, Dr. Nelson accepted the position of Chair and Professor in the Department of Political Science, Memphis State University, from 1969-1973. While there, he was a finalist for the distinguished teaching award in 1972 and 1973, and he was Director of the MSU Institute of Governmental Studies and Research.

In 1973, Dr. Nelson joined James Madison University as Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs. While at JMU, he also served as Head of the Department of Political Science until his retirement in 1992 as Professor Emeritus, Political Science and Law, and Head Emeritus, Department of Political Science. He was an avid JMU sports fan and he and his wife cared for two of the JMU bulldog mascots, Duke III and Duke IV.

During his academic career, Dr. Nelson particularly enjoyed teaching Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, and International Terrorism. He was author of numerous articles in professional journals and two books: American Government and Political Change and The Politics of Science. The William R. Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University was created in his honor by Dr. Ronald E. Carrier, Chancellor Emeritus, James Madison University.

Dick is an honoree in the National World War II Registry in Washington, D.C. as a World War II Veteran, a member of B.P.O.E. Harrisonburg Elks Lodge, the Hump Pilots’ Association, and the Air Force Association.

On May 8, 1976, Dick married Eileen Schmitt Nelson, who survives him. He is also survived by sons, R. Ryan Nelson of Charlottesville, Va. and Edward R. Farnen of Cumming, Ga., Carlton Nelson of Baltimore, Md., and Stuart Nelson of Salt Lake City, Utah; daughters, Pamela S. Nelson of Richmond, Va., Nancy Sarco of Harrisonburg, Va., Tina Hair of Murray, Utah, Camille Strasters and St. Claire Nelson, both of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Sarah Stokke-Johnson of Oslow, Norway; numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Judy Pepper of Salina, Kan.

A memorial service will be held 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Sonner Hall, James Madison University. Interment will be at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the William R. Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, James Madison University, Moody Hall, MSC 1205, 800 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, VA 22807, or Community Caregivers Network, James Madison University, Blue Ridge Hall, MSC 9014, 800 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, VA 22807.