Jerry Gafio Watts (May 17, 1953 – November 16, 2015) A leading scholar of African American political thought
Jerry Gafio Watts died on November 16, 2015 in New Jersey. Born on May 17, 1953, in Washington, D.C. the third child of Maria Wright Watts and James S. Watts, Sr. who are now deceased. He is survived by his spouse, Traci C. West, sister Brenda M. Watts, brother, Robert A. Watts; nephews: James Watts III, Gregory Watts, Michael Watts, Shawn Sloan and Kyle Sloan, and a niece, Ravae M. Perkins; an aunt Evelyn Foster; and a host of beloved in-laws, cousins, students and former students, friends, and academic colleagues.
Watts graduated from DeMatha Catholic High School in Washington, D.C. (1971), earned a B.A. from Harvard University (1975), and his PhD in Political Science from Yale University (1985).
Watts served as an Assistant professor of Government and Afro-American Studies at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT), an Associate and full professor of American Studies at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), a professor of English at CUNY Graduate Center (NY, NY). He was the author or several books and many articles, most notably, Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Reflections on Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life (1994) and Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual (2001).
Watts was best known for his loving commitment to mentoring his students; kind and generous spirit to workers across class and racial/ethnic lines, scathing critiques of white supremacy in U.S. racial politics and academia, iconoclastic texts on politics and intellectuals; scandalous wit, humor, and storytelling; love for his family; and his insights about the political constraints, spiritual tortures, and inspirations of genius that can be embedded in the vocation of a political intellectual. He will be sorely missed by all who loved him and had the chance to learn from him.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday December 5, 2015 at 6:15 pm at the NY Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street, New York, NY. A reception will follow. Everyone is invited to this time of storytelling and celebration of his life.
In lieu of flowers please send donations “In honor of Professor Jerry G. Watts” to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, 40 Rector Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10006 or the United Negro College Fund, 1805 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.