American Civil Rights Union Founding Policy Board Member James Q. Wilson, Ph.D., died on March 2 at the age of 80, leaving behind an unparalleled wealth of social science insights and writing.
“This is a tremendous loss to us and to the world of scholarship,” said Susan A. Carleson, Chairman and CEO of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU). “Dr. Wilson, who graced our board since its founding, was best known for his ‘broken windows’ theory of social breakdown, but he cast his critical eye on virtually every modern political and social development. ” He and ACRU founder Bob Carleson first became friends at kindergarten in 1936 in Long Beach, California.
“Bob and Jim lost track of each other as the years passed, and it wasn’t until one morning when Bob was on the campaign trail for Ronald Reagan in1980 that their paths would cross again. Bob was in a hotel room shaving and the TV news was on in the background,” Mrs. Carleson recounted. “The host announced that the next guest would be a professor from Harvard. Bob sighed and continued to shave but after a few minutes he got curious because the Harvard professor was making sense. Bob squinted at the face on the screen, noted the name, Dr. James Q. Wilson, and declared ‘Oh my God, it’s Jimmy Wilson.'”
“Jim Wilson was one of America’s greatest thinkers, scholars and patriots, as well as a good friend,” said former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, an ACRU founding Policy Board member. “He had a major influence on the modernization of policing in our nation and was also one of the most profound writers on moral philosophy. His teaching at several institutions inspired young Americans and provided a series of outstanding writings, which will be invaluable for years to come. Jim’s work was particularly valued by former President Reagan, who had appointed him to the President’s Commission on Violent Crime in 1981. The whole country is in debt to him for all of his contributions to make this a better land.”
“Very sad news,” said former U.S. Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, another founding ACRU Policy Board member. “A truly great man is no longer amongst us, but he surely left his mark and will be remembered fondly by those of us who knew him well, as well as by the countless others who admired and enjoyed his profound brilliance and remarkable intellect. He was one of the very few Harvard professors who actually made sense, and who, when he spoke, invariably had something important to say. We all are a bit worse this sad day for his passing, but will forever be infinitely better for the thoughts and insights he left behind.”
Wilson, a renowned scholar and intellectual, was a professor of government at Harvard from 1961 to 1986 and from then until 1997 the James Collins Professor of Management at UCLA. He wrote or co-wrote 14 books, the last of which were The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families (Harper Collins, 2002), Moral Judgment (Basic Books), and The Moral Sense (Free Press). In 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President George W. Bush.
“Our hearts go out to Dr. Wilson’s family and to the many people whose lives he made better over the years,” Mrs. Carleson said. “This is a deep loss for the ACRU and for many other groups and people who benefited from his wisdom and leadership. Jim will be missed by all of us who knew and admired him. The country has lost a great mind and a wonderful human being.”