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College of Arts & Sciences
Walker Institute

Honoring Dr. James 'Jim' Townsend Myers, Former Director of the Center for Asian Studies

It is with great sadness that the Walker Institute shares the news of the passing of Professor James T. Myers. Jim was one of the most influential people in the early development of the Walker Institute. He created and served as the first director of the Center for Asian Studies. Much of the programming that the Center for Asian Studies carries on today is made possible by Jim’s efforts during those early years. We honor his legacy and extend our sympathies to his family. Here is information about the services that have been arranged and a biography that was provided by his family.

Rosary Information:

Date: Friday-February 10, 2017

Time: 5:00pm

Where: St. Joseph Catholic Church

Burial Information:

Date: Saturday-February 11, 2017

Time: 12:00pm

Where: St. Joseph Catholic Church

James Townsend Myers died peacefully yesterday surrounded by his family and his loving German Shepherd dog, Leo. Jim had suffered many years of pain and disability as a result of an incurable neuromuscular disease but he is now safely and peacefully at rest in the bosom of Abraham.

Jim was born in New Orleans Louisiana on November 24, 1936, the youngest child of Buford MacMartin Myers and Elma Verlander Townsend Myers. He was predeceased by his brothers Donald Townsend Myers and Buford MacMartin Myers; he is survived by his sister Dorothy Elma Myers Drackett.

Jim was educated in private schools in New Orleans and graduated from the Metairie Park Country Day school in 1954. He attended University for a period of time but with the draft still active he elected to join the US Air Force where he had been accepted for flight training. While in basic training awaiting his assignment to flight school, the Air Force put him through a number of tests and examinations and decided to send him to the Yale University Institute of Far Eastern Languages to study Mandarin Chinese. His assignment to flight school came while he was at Yale, but he elected to stay in the Chinese program. Following his completion of the Chinese language program he was assigned to the National Security Agency for additional training. After the NSA, Jim was ordered to Asia where he served in the US Air Force Security Service.

After his discharge from the Air Force Jim entered the University of Washington in Seattle where he completed BA and MA degrees in Far East Area Studies. He entered into a PhD program under the direction of the renowned professor Franz Michael and decided to follow Professor Michael to the East Coast when he moved to the George Washington University. Jim completed his PhD degree in political science at George Washington Institute for Sino-Soviet Studies with an emphasis on modern Chinese politics. 

While still in school, Jim's wife was pregnant with their first child and he was offered a position at the University of South Carolina which he accepted. Jim taught at Carolina for more than three decades retiring with the rank of Distinguished Professor. He was also the founding director of the University's Center for Asian Studies.

In addition to his responsibility for teaching Chinese politics, Jim taught large introductory classes in American government. In an effort to bring innovation to the classroom, he embarked mid-career on a multimedia program that involved bringing leading political figures to the classroom by way of television. The collection "Conversations in American Government" grew to 72 half-hour programs. He interviewed Presidents Ford and Reagan as well as many prominent members of the Congress, journalists, federal judges, governors, and other noted political figures.  The project eventually resulted in a college textbook in American Government ("The American Way") and was widely used in distance education as well.

Jim eventually returned to Chinese politics for the remainder of his academic career. He was the author, editor, or co-editor of fourteen books as well as many book chapters and academic journal articles principally in the field of modern Chinese politics. Jim was perhaps most proud of his book "Enemies Without Guns: The Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China," which he and his family had the great honor to present to Saint John Paul II at the Vatican in 1992.

Jim was a popular teacher throughout his career and received a Mortar Board Teacher of the Year award. As a faculty member, he was also initiated into the undergraduate honor Society Omicron Delta Kappa.

As Jim was preparing for retirement, Bishop Robert Baker was appointed to the Roman Catholic diocese of Charleston in South Carolina. The bishop met Jim and invited him to join his Chancery office. Jim stayed with the bishop almost the entire seven years he was in Charleston before he was assigned as Bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama. Jim served as the director of the Diocesan Office of Stewardship and also as a member of the Bishop's Curia. 

Jim was honored by the Catholic Church in 2001 with his investiture as a Knight in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. This is the oldest Order of chivalry in the world, founded in 1099, and in continuous existence since the First Crusade. At the time of his death, Jim held the rank of Knight Grand Cross. Jim was honored by the Order for his exceptional work over 10 years as the editor of the Order's newsletter with the rarely awarded Silver Palm of Jerusalem medal. 

In 2007, for his work in Stewardship for Bishop Baker, in a liturgical ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina, he was awarded the highest Papal award, the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, by Pope Benedict XVI.

Jim was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church, and from the time of his conversion to his death he was a member of Saint Joseph Parish in Columbia where he also served for many years as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. He was a member of the Flamenco Club, the Camellia Ball, and the Forest Lake Club. Jim was also a founding member and the first Captain of the venerable Mardi Gras organization Mystic Krewe of Raccoon.

Jim was predeceased by his first wife, Florence Bacher (Betty) Myers, who was the mother of his two oldest children. He is survived by his beloved wife of 35 years, Christina Hoefer Myers, and by his children: son Townsend MacMartin Myers and wife Peggy, daughter Amy Elizabeth Myers and husband Xavier Garcia, daughter Aidan Myers Hatch and husband Michael, daughter Christian Hoefer Myers and by beloved grandchildren Sarah and Emma Myers and August Hatch, and by wonderful nephews and nieces and a loving family of in-laws.

A Rosary will be prayed Friday, February 10th at 5pm with visitation following at St. Joseph Catholic Church. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Saint Joseph church at Noon on Saturday, February 11th.  Internment will take place at Our Lady of Mepkin Trappist Abbey near Moncks Corner, SC. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to a charity of your choice, to St. Joseph Parish, or to the Holy Monks at Mepkin Abbey.