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Professor of English dies at 74

Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

James Walton, professor emeritus of English at the University of Notre Dame, died Saturday after a brief illness. He was 74 years old.

A 1959 Notre Dame alumnus, the Blue Island, Ill.-bred Walton also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in English from Northwestern University in 1960 and 1963, respectively, according to a University press release. 

Walton joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1963 and taught popular courses on the English novel and 18th-century literature until he retired in 2003. Throughout his career and after his retirement, Walton was a prolific writer of fiction and literary criticism.

He also earned the respect of generations of colleagues and students during his tenure at Notre Dame.

“From his earliest days on the English faculty, Jay had marvelous range,” Donald Sniegowski, professor emeritus of English, said. “His major publications included an edition of eighteenth-century correspondence, a novel, ‘Margaret’s Story,’ and a critical study of J. S. Le Fanu. He edited a wonderful anthology of poetry by Notre Dame poets and published numerous scholarly articles. With characteristic wit and self-deprecation, he tried to hide his light under a bushel, but quite a few of us knew differently.”

Walton’s legacy lasts to the present-day deparment.

“Jay’s contributions to this department are legendary, but the chief one was, and remains, his friendship,” Valerie Sayers, professor and chair of Notre Dame’s English department, said. “Our best students, undergraduate and graduate, revered him as much for his acerbic bons mots as for his personal generosity.”

More recently, Walton became involved with Notre Dame’s Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the University’s Creative Writing Program, according to the release.

Walton is survived by his wife, Carole, his daughter, Ann Caroline Walton, a son, Jack, and four grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Welsheimer Family Funeral Home North, 17033 Cleveland Rd., South Bend. Visitation with the family will take place at the funeral home from 3 p.m. until the service begins. A private burial will take place at Cedar Grove Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County or The Center for Hospice Care.