Joseph James “Jim” Murray ’51

Joseph James “Jim” Murray, Jr. passed away peacefully at his home in Charlottesville on September 5, 2023. Jim was born on March 13, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, and he was educated at Davidson College (1947-1951) and Merton College, Oxford (Rhodes Scholar, 1951-1954). He served in the US Army (1955-1956) and then taught for two years at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, before returning to Oxford to earn a D.Phil. in Zoology. In 1962, he joined the Biology faculty of the University of Virginia.

Jim’s main research interests were ecological genetics and the evolution of animal populations. His research on land snails took him to the British Isles, Australia, and on many trips to Polynesia, where he studied the native snails of the genus Partula. At UVA, Jim chaired the Biology Department from 1984 to 1987; served as director of the Mountain Lake Biological Station for thirteen summers between 1964 and 1990; and mentored several generations of graduate students. He was a Fellow and former President of the Virginia Academy of Sciences and a board member of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. He also chaired the University’s Arboretum Committee for over 20 years, often saying that this was his favorite University committee.

Jim was an active mountain climber and lifelong conservationist. He spent many happy days exploring peaks and valleys from the Himalayas to the Alps to the Appalachians of his native Virginia. Throughout his life, he worked tirelessly to preserve wilderness areas on Virginia public lands. A founding member of the Virginia Wilderness Committee, Jim served as its president in 1970 and again from 1997 to 2007. He helped to shepherd the passage of six wilderness bills through the US Congress (1975-2009), which added over 200,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Jim also loved planting and nurturing trees, woodworking, Scottish dancing, and sustainable farming with his family at Bentivar. He was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth H. “Bess” Murray, and is survived by his three children: Joseph J. “Joe” Murray III of Charlottesville, along with his wife Andee and daughters Maggie and Erin; Alison J. “Tiki” Murray Levine of Charlottesville, along with her husband Stephen and daughter Sophia; and William L. “Will” Murray of Long Beach, CA, along with his wife Rhonda. He was proud of his three granddaughters and delighted in their stories and accomplishments.

In lieu of flowers, any gifts in Jim’s memory may be sent to the Virginia Wilderness Committee, PO Box 1235, Lexington, VA 24450, or