James Ward Byrkit, longtime environmental sciences professor

James Byrkit

James Ward Byrkit, an emeritus professor of environmental sciences at Northern Arizona University, died Sept. 25, 2011. He was 80.

Born in Jerome, Ariz., on June 17, 1931, Dr. Byrkit was raised in Clarkdale, Ariz. He joined the U.S. Army in 1949 and served during the Korean War. He earned his Ph.D. in American economic and social history from Claremont Graduate University.

He came to NAU in 1973, where he taught in environmental studies until his retirement in 1996.

Dr. Byrkit 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. In 1982, he wrote 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.

An expert on Arizona history, Dr. Byrkit authored the entry for “Arizona” in the 1990 and 2000 editions of Encyclopedia Britannica. After retiring from NAU, he gave more than 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, Vietnam; son James (Alethea) of Los Angeles; daughter Alyssa of San Jose; and four grandchildren: Jedidiah, Ezekiel, Gibson and Andie.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, outside at the Riordan Mansion, 409 W. Riordan Ranch Road, in Flagstaff.