Eugene J. Watts (1942-2008)
Warren Van Tine, March 2009
U.S. history professor and state senator
Ohio State University Associate Professor Emeritus Eugene J. Watts passed away on November 11, 2008, at the age of 66. He was born on October 17, 1942, in St. Louis, Missouri. Watts graduated from Knox College in 1964. He received his MA in 1965 and a PhD in history in 1969, both from Emory University. He taught at Indiana University for a year before coming to Ohio State in 1972, where he taught until he retired in December 2000.
Eugene Watts introduced to Ohio State courses on “Quantitative Methods in Historical Research and Analysis” and “The History of American Police and Criminal Justice.” He also regularly taught a course on recent U.S. history. These were also the areas of his research, which bore fruit in the publication of numerous articles in prestigious journals and a monograph, The Social Bases of City Politics: Atlanta, 1865–1903 (1978). At the time of his death he was researching a book tentatively entitled Damn Good Copper: The St. Louis Police in the 20th Century. In recognition of his scholarship, Watts was the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.
In 1984, Eugene Watts successfully ran as a Republican for the Ohio State Senate from the 16th District. He was continuously re-elected to the office until 2000, when he was no longer eligible to run because of term limitations. During these years, Watts adjusted his position with the university to parttime to accommodate his senate duties. Many a day when the legislature was in session, he could be seen darting out of the classroom at the sound of the bell to rush downtown for a debate or vote. As a state senator, Watts did much to promote Ohio State, and highlighted his ties to the university with his yearly challenge to his state senatorial counterpart in Ann Arbor. Whichever senator represented the losing side in the Ohio State vs. Michigan game had to sing publicly the opponent’s fight song. Watts timed his retirement from the university to coincide with his departure from the Ohio senate.
Eugene Watts served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and rose to the rank of captain. He was subsequently active and held leadership position in several in veteran organizations.
Watts is survived by his wife, Cynthia Tait-Watts; daughters and son-in-law, Julia Watts and Christopher Coleman, and Mackenzie Mulrane Watts; stepson John Tait; and stepdaughter Caroline Tait.
—Warren Van Tine
Ohio State University