Arizona native and prominent Southwest historian James Ward Byrkit passed away at his Flagstaff home on Sunday, September 25. He was 80 years old.
Born in Jerome, Arizona on June 17, 1931, Jim was raised in Clarkdale. He joined the US Army in 1949 and served during the Korean War. He earned his PhD in American Economic and Social History from Claremont Graduate University. A Professor Emeritus of Interdisciplinary Studies at Northern Arizona University, he taught at NAU from 1973 to 1996.
Jim researched and wrote extensively about Southwest topics including ancient trails, Spanish and early pioneer explorers, Native American studies, environmental issues in the Verde Valley, and Arizona mining and labor history. He wrote the widely respected "Forging the Copper Collar" in 1982, a comprehensive account of the Bisbee Deportation, and edited "Letters from the Southwest" by Charles Lummis. He collected historical maps and contributed original cartography to a number of published research works.
Jim was an expert on Arizona history and authored the entry for "Arizona" in the 1990 and 2000 editions of Encyclopedia Britannica. After retiring from NAU he continued to give over 300 original media and oral presentations on subjects ranging from the Palatkwapi Trail, to the Lost Apache Gold Mine, to birds in Arizona's Oak Creek-Sedona area. Among many honors throughout his life, the Arizona Humanities Council recognized him for his lifetime achievement in Southwestern scholarship.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years Anne, daughter Rebecca of Bisbee, daughter Ramona of Hanoi, Viet Nam, son James Ward and his wife Alethea of Los Angeles, daughter Alyssa of San Jose, and four grandchildren: Jedidiah, Ezekiel, Gibson, and Andie.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 1 at 11:00 a.m. outdoors at the Riordan Mansion, 409 West Riordan Ranch Road, Flagstaff.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Riordan Action Network.
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