The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama noted the death of John Ramsey through Senator Howell Heflin who entered into the Congressional Record on March 10, 1983 “A Tribute to Dr. John F. Ramsey.” The tribute read as follows:
“Mr. President, on February 16, 1983, Alabama lost one of its most outstanding citizens when Dr. John Ramsey passed away.
Dr. Ramsey first came to Alabama as a history instructor at The University of Alabama in 1935. Except for three years when he served as a senior historian of the United States Air Force, he would remain a member of the faculty at the University for 42 years until his retirement in 1977.
His career at the University was certainly a distinguished one. During his tenure, Dr. Ramsey served as Chairman of the Department of History, the American Studies Committee, the President’s Committee on Academic Activities of the University, the Committee on the Honors Program, the Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate, the Arts and Sciences Committee on Instruction, the University Committee on Student Awards, and the Arts and Sciences Committee on Student Academic Affairs. He has also served as President of the Alabama Council for the Social Studies and the Alabama Association of Historians, which has named its annual award “the John F. Ramsey Award of Merit,” in recognition of his outstanding service in founding the association.
To fully realize the depth and dimension of this dedicated teacher, one must look beyond a mere listing of his honors and awards, even when they are as impressive as these are.
The true essence of Dr. Ramsey was a teacher. His life was shaped around his love of history, his students, and The University of Alabama. He was a scholar, and had several scholarly works published, but I believe his own measure of success was not in these personal, material accomplishments, but was in conveying an enthusiasm for the study of man to many generations of students. My son Tom was one of his students, and I have heard him speak at length about his respect and devotion of his friend and teacher.
Professor Ramsey was truly fond of his students, thinking of them not as impersonal numbers or mere faces in a large lecture room, but as human beings. He was widely known among the student body for his wit and humor, his integrity, and his leadership, but no more so than for his ability and willingness to listen and advise.
During his years at the University, John Ramsey was not only a professor, but an example, a counselor, and a friend. He earned, many times over, the respect and admiration of all who knew him, both inside and outside of the University community.
In 1977, the year of this retirement, two distinctive honors were bestowed on Dr. Ramsey which perhaps best indicate the attitude which the University has toward him. The first of these honors came when he was given the highest award which The University of Alabama can bestow, the Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Second, his friends endowed, in Dr. Ramsey’s name, the first University-wide endowed scholarship. This $1000 scholarship is now presented annually, encouraging students to follow in the path of John Ramsey’s high standards of excellence.
Mr. President, Professor John Fraser Ramsey was a truly great educator and citizen. I only wish that my words today could convey the esteem in which he was held as clearly and succinctly as did a professor of law in Illinois, who said, “When I think of the value of liberal education, I think of John Ramsey. When my students say I am a good teacher, I think: I knew one. If I could be more like him, you would know what a good teacher is.”
Upon his death, friends and colleagues described John Ramsey as the “ideal professor.” Dr. Joab Thomas, President of the University of Alabama, referred to John Ramsey as “Mr. Faculty,” and cited his death as a great loss to the academic community and to the teaching profession. Douglas E. Jones, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said,
“I think John Ramsey probably represents in the eyes of many students the ideal professor, in that he expressed enormous concern about their intellectual well-being and was such a very caring person. He probably had as close a relationship with students as anybody I have ever known.”
Citing his death as a “very great loss,” Dr. Charles Summersell, professor emeritus of history at the Capstone said, “He was an outstanding teacher, but he did more than just teach a subject. He influenced lives. By his close personal interest and concern, he formed an endless chain of influence on individuals particularly students.” Dr. William Barnard, Chairman of the University History Department, described John as “an extraordinary human being. He was one of the most beloved historians in the State. I think in the end he will be remembered for the untold number of students he aided financially, most often without it being known. His unselfish dedication to his students and to the University of Alabama should serve as a model for us all.”