AAG Lifetime Achievement Honors: John Paul Jones III, Bobby M. Wilson

The 2015 AAG Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to John Paul Jones III and Bobby M. Wilson.

The AAG Honors Committee selected Jones for his exciting and theoretically rich intellectual forays into a broad range of topics and areas of inquiry especially socio-spatial theory and geographic methods; his innovative teaching and mentoring; his record of service within the discipline as editor of the Annals and other journals, and his creative and inspirational leadership at the universities where he has taught.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Wilson in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to scholarship, teaching, leadership, and service to the discipline of geography. Wilson’s career-long dedication to anti-racist scholarship, as well as his mentorship of many students and colleagues have had a lasting impact on contemporary geography.

Citations for John Paul Jones and Bobby Wilson follow below. 

John Paul Jones, III, University of Arizona


Since beginning of his first faculty appointment Dr. John Paul Jones, III has brought his rigorous methodological and theoretical insights to various aspects of the field ranging from positivist spatial science to post-structuralist spatial theory. One supporter noted that although the topics he engages may seem highly cerebral and abstract, he approaches them with a wit, humor, and playfulness that have engaged broad audiences inside and outside geography.

A hallmark of Jones’s work is a spirit of collegial collaboration with scholars who, like himself have helped to shape contemporary geography in many ways. His work is intellectually rich; exuberant in its critique of geographic thought, history, and methodology; and constantly considering the ‘big picture’ in advancing the field of geography. His letters of support stressed how important his work has been in bridging the many subfields of geography — having a tremendous impact on connecting and reconciling diverse epistemological communities across the discipline. Jones’s understanding and curiosity about areas as diverse as physical geography and critical social theory have been of tremendous value to all. The letters of support included with Jones’s nomination stress repeatedly his passion for new ideas, his generosity, and his vital sense of collegiality.

Jones is an imaginative scholar with a strong reputation both in the United States and internationally. His edited books, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and journal articles have played and continue to play a central role in key theoretical debates in geography. He is particularly noted for his strong influence on the field of critical geographical studies including such topics as the importance of poststructural and feminist approaches and scale and the production of social space in human geography.

In addition to his own scholarship and influence on the discipline, Jones is considered an outstanding teacher and mentor. He has supervised 23 Ph.D. dissertations, 20 master’s theses and currently supervises six doctoral candidates even as he served as chair of Geography and Development and then as Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of Arizona. His students routinely receive NSF funding and have secured positions at outstanding research and teaching institutions around the world. He has an outstanding record of service within universities and the discipline, editing the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, serving on editorial boards, on numerous committees and visiting and speaking and universities around the world.

For these many reasons the 2015 AAG Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Dr. John Paul Jones, III for his many contributions to the discipline throughout his career.]

Bobby M. Wilson, University of Alabama


Dr. Bobby M. Wilson is awarded the Association of American Geographers 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the scholarship of urban and social geography, urban studies, and anti-racist theory and practice; his teaching and mentoring; as well as his exemplary leadership in support of geography.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Wilson has established a reputation for empirically rich, politically engaged, and theoretically sophisticated scholarship on issues of housing, urban revitalization, economic development, and social justice for Black communities. His numerous publications offer sophisticated theoretical appraisals of capitalist processes, social engineering, and neoliberalism and have led directly to a sharper scholarly perspective on spatial dimensions of the Black experience in the urban South.

Wilson’s two major works, America’s Johannesburg: Industrialization and Racial Transformation in Birmingham (2000) and Race and Place in Birmingham: The Civil Rights and Neighborhood Movements (2000) exemplify these contributions in their analysis of the geography of Birmingham, Alabama. As these titles suggest, his concern is both the large-scale processes of economic, political, social transformation as well as the on-the-ground social movements that respond to these forces.

At the regional and national levels, Wilson has been a leader in helping to address questions of racism and access within the institutional framework of the discipline. In the mid-1980s, he was a member of the AAG’s Commission on Afro-American Geography, the first such group to address racism and anti-racism with geography. He played a similar leadership role within the Southeastern Division of the AAG. He has also had a constant presence at the local level where his commitment to anti-racist scholarship has played out in contributions to his own community by working as a board member for many local agencies devoted to community wellbeing, and in a large number of community-based research projects.

As AAG president Audrey Kobayashi noted when presenting Wilson with the association’s Presidential Achievement Award in 2012: “Professor Wilson’s contributions to anti-racist practice in advancing the discipline of Geography have been unflagging. As an educator, he has constantly striven both to develop anti-racist practices in the classroom in general, and to contribute to the educational context, including historically black institutions, in which minority students can thrive.”

Based on these extraordinary achievements and contributions to geography, it is an honor to recognize Dr. Bobby M. Wilson with the 2015 Association of American Geographer’s Lifetime Achievement Award.