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In Memoriam | Winter 2016

In Memoriam: 1950s

Notices sorted by graduation date

R.K. “Ruhi” Ramazani
March 21, 1928–October 5, 2016

Distinguished Prof. Leaves Foreign Policy Legacy

University of Virginia professor emeritus R.K. “Ruhi” Ramazani (Law ’54 L/M), known as the “dean of Iranian foreign policy,” came to the United States in 1952 from conflict-ridden Iran. He was studying law at the University of Tehran when insurgents attacked, killing a dean and a classmate and then looking for Ramazani.

After escaping the violence and turmoil, Mr. Ramazani married Nesta Shahrokh Ramazani (Grad ’89), and he and his new wife sailed to the United States aboard the Ile de France. He continued his studies at the University of Georgia but soon transferred to UVA’s School of Law on the advice of his professors, earning a doctor of juridical science degree in 1954. Throughout the rest of his life, his work would be powered by the love he felt for both America and Iran, and much of his published writings aimed to educate each side about the other.

He taught the University’s first course on the Middle East in 1953, joined the faculty officially in 1954, and wrote or edited 15 books on Iran’s foreign policy and Middle Eastern affairs, several of them dedicated to the University and its Jeffersonian ideals. He established Middle Eastern studies at UVA and twice served as chair of the Department of Politics (as it is now known).

During the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, President Jimmy Carter consulted Mr. Ramazani, and after decades of work devoted to the improvement of Iran-U.S. relations, he was delighted to see the U.S. reach a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015. He also advised the U.S. Departments of State, Defense and Treasury, and the Secretariat General of the United Nations.

He is fondly remembered as a mentor by many current UVA faculty members, including his son R. Jahan Ramazani (Col ’81), a member of the English department, and Larry J. Sabato (Col ’74 L/M), founder of the Center for Politics.

Mr. Ramazani was awarded the University’s highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, in 1994. (In 2011, Jahan Ramazani also received the award, making them the first father-son pair to do so.) He also received the UVA Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award in 1974, the Raven Society Service Award in 1989, and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1994.

Survivors include his wife; four children, Jahan Ramazani, Sima Ramazani (Col ’84), Vaheed K. Ramazani (Col ’76, Grad ’78, ’86) and David K. Ramazani; and six grandchildren, including Gabriel B. Rody-Ramazani (Col ’19).


James Pearce Brice (Col ’50) of Roanoke, Virginia, died September 15, 2016. He entered Virginia Military Institute at age 16, leaving immediately upon his 18th birthday to join the Merchant Marine, where he dodged torpedoes as a helmsman on an oil tanker in the North Atlantic. During this time, he lost his brother, Rangers platoon commander and 1st Lt. Robert Brice, to a German bullet on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Before the end of the war, he joined the United States Army and became a Japanese translator and interrogator. Later, he served in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps in northern Hokkaido, where he interrogated Russian subversives and suspected Japanese loyalists. After leaving the Army, Mr. Brice attained his bachelor’s degree from UVA and his law degree from Washington and Lee in 1954. At the University, he was on the men’s track and field team and was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Army ROTC. After graduation, he worked in private practice, at the Veterans Administration, and then in the United States district attorney’s office. He served as judge at the Roanoke general district court from 1967 until his retirement in 1987; afterward, he enjoyed serving as a substitute judge and traveling and visiting obscure historical sites. Mr. Brice was a lifelong member of the Freemasons. Survivors include his wife, three sons and three grandchildren.

Nancy Taylor Johnson (Nurs ’52) of Roanoke, Virginia, died June 12, 2016. She was a pediatric nurse at UVA Hospital until she met her husband, Earl R. Johnson Jr. (Col ’50, Med ’54, Res ’58 L/M) and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There she continued pediatric nursing at UNC Hospital before moving to Roanoke, where she and her family lived happily for 50 years. Ms. Johnson had four children of her own, but over the years she also looked after four neighborhood children who had lost a parent, and she cared for her mother-in-law, her father, her paraplegic twin sister, a nephew, and several others. When her husband developed Alzheimer’s disease, Ms. Johnson was his sole caregiver for the remaining seven years of his life. Survivors include three of her children, including Stephen A. Johnson (Col ’81, Law ’84) and Cathy Johnson Murray (Nurs ’79); ten grandchildren, including Christopher J. Murray (Engr ’10); and three great-grandchildren.

Constance Williams Smith (Nurs ’52 L/M) of Leesburg, Virginia, died December 5, 2015. At the University, Ms. Smith was a member of Kappa Delta sorority, and it was during this time that she met her husband of 60 years, Joseph H. Smith (Col ’47, Med ’52 L/M), who passed away in 2012. She received her master’s degree in nursing from The Catholic University of America in 1979, and then taught as a clinical instructor of nursing at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, from 1994 to 1998. She also had a private practice. After living in Bethesda, Maryland for more than 40 years, she retired to Deep Creek Lake in Swanton, Maryland, and eventually moved to Leesburg. Ms. Smith was a strong proponent of education, an excellent cook, and had a wonderful sense of humor. But above all, she was deeply devoted to her family, who loved her and miss her. Survivors include four children, including Barbara Smith (Col ’80 L/M); and seven grandchildren, including Mark Lungociu (Grad ’16).

Jay McClure “Mickey” Willingham (Col ’52) of Macon, Georgia, died September 27, 2016. At the University, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Mr. Willingham worked for A.C. Willingham Lumber Co. in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and later served as vice president of sales for Georgia Coating Clay Co. in Macon. He retired from Engelhard Corp. in Iselin, New Jersey, in 1994. While living in Macon, he was board chairman of the Macon/Bibb County Cancer Society and director of the Macon Civic Club and the Macon Lawn Tennis Association. Later, he was team captain of the Macon Super Senior Tennis League. One of Mr. Willingham’s proudest achievements was coaching Little League baseball in the Vine Ingle league. Survivors include his three children, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren (with another on the way), a sister and a brother.

Nancy Lou Kasey Wellford (Educ ’53) of Roanoke, Virginia, died October 13, 2016. She was an elementary school teacher in Roanoke and Roanoke County public schools for 30 years; during that time, she was also active in the Historical Society of Western Virginia and the Christ Church Social Club. Survivors include her three children, including Ellen Wellford Leitch (Com ’84 L/M); and seven grandchildren.

George Gilmer Grattan IV (Col ’55, Law ’60 L/M) of Charlottesville died Sunday, September 11, 2016. At the University, Mr. Grattan was a member of St. Anthony Hall fraternity, Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, IMP Society, T.I.L.K.A., Inter-Fraternity Council and the Corks & Curls staff. He was also a member of the varsity basketball team and captain of the track team, and was awarded the Henry Cummings Memorial Award for excellence in track and field as well as his sports letter in basketball. He also was a member of the Army ROTC and the Jefferson Sabres. After two years in the military, he returned to UVA to attend law school; at that time he served on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review, was chairman of the University’s Judiciary Committee, and was named a member of the Raven Society. After earning his law degree, Mr. Grattan joined the Richmond firm Christian, Barton, Parker and Boyd. In 1974, he became legal adviser to the president, rector and Board of Visitors at UVA, where he served for 14 years until his retirement. He was president of Big Brothers of Richmond and the Virginia Bar Association, and served on the boards of Elk Hill Farm and of the Charlottesville and University Symphony Society. Mr. Grattan’s passion for UVA was lifelong, and he attended numerous University programs, alumni events and athletic events. He loved barbershop music, which he enthusiastically performed with members of the Jeffersonland Chorus and the Blue Ridge Connection quartet. He also enjoyed fly fishing, bird hunting, exercise, working on his farm, and traveling, and he adored his children, grandchildren and his many hunting dogs. Survivors include four children, including Rebecca Grattan Mercer (Law ’85), Kathleen Ridgway Grattan (Col ’82) and David Gilmer Grattan (Com ’86 L/M); and nine grandchildren, including Elizabeth L. Mercer (Col ’10 L/M), Sarah F. Mercer (Engr ’12 L/M), Margaret G. Grattan (Col ’18) and Katherine F. Grattan (Col ’20).

Lloyd H. Jennings (Col ’56) of North Chesterfield, Virginia, died October 3, 2016. During World War II, Mr. Jennings volunteered to serve in the 8th Air Force, 379th Bomber Group. On his first combat mission, he was a waist gunner in the famous Ye Olde Pub, the B-17 bomber written about in the best-selling book A Higher Call by Adam Makos. Mr. Jennings was the last surviving member of that mission. His remaining 26 missions were in the B-17 Carol Dawn. During his service, Mr. Jennings received several awards including the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, European Theater of Operations Service Ribbon and Good Conduct Medal. After the war, he finished college and did graduate work at the University. He had a long career in insurance and financial planning, and he enjoyed traveling with his wife, especially to national parks and public gardens. Survivors include his wife, two nephews, two nieces and a sister-in-law.

Paul R. Little (Engr ’57 L/M) of Orlando, Florida, died September 29, 2016. At the University, he was a member of the Raven Society, secretary of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, and secretary of Trigon Engineering Society, and he graduated with a Naval NROTC commission. He was also a member of Newman Club, the Engineering Review and Trident Society, as well as several other clubs. Mr. Little served as missile officer on the USS Tunny, a submarine carrying the Regulus missile, which was the first submarine-launched nuclear weapon. He served on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, testing Regulus and training crews, and was honorably discharged in 1960 with the rank of lieutenant. Afterward, he continued testing missiles for five years at Cape Canaveral, Florida, during the space race. In 1965, friends arranged a blind date between Mr. Little and Jo Ann at an old Florida fishing camp called Hub’s Inn. They married eight months later and soon bought a house in Winter Park, Florida. Mr. Little returned to the Navy, this time as the civilian head of the systems engineering department at the new Orlando Naval Training Center. He spent the rest of his career with the Navy Training Center, including NTC San Diego and NAS Pensacola. He retired in 2001 as the head of the simulations and models division. During his 36 years in government service, Mr. Little was given more than 30 performance awards and the Civilian Exemplary Service Award from the Naval Training Systems Center. The Littles raised two sons, attending every athletic, school and Boy Scout event and enjoying many trips to national parks. In later years, Mr. Little explored genealogy, grew many fine orchids and rigorously maintained his professional engineer status. Survivors include his wife; two sons, including Paul T. Little (Com ’89, Grad ’90); two grandchildren; and a brother.

Harry Strachan Hobson (Col ’58 L/M) of Richmond died September 17, 2016. He served for two years as an officer in the U.S. Army. At the University, he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the Eli Banana and earned his sports letter in intercollegiate men’s soccer in January 1958. Survivors include his three nephews and their families.

Emilyann Nieman Lyons (Educ ’59) of Charlottesville died July 21, 2016. Ms. Lyons, owner and founder of Cochran’s Mill Antiques, was an antiques dealer and appraiser for more than 50 years. Survivors include three daughters, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.