James “Jim” Allan Fox

James Allan Fox died at his home in Palo Alto, California, on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at the age of 75. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, six children, Hugh(Jody), Sharman (Jason Christopher), John (Sufi), Rachel (Marco Matta), Suzie(Alex Gillett), and Kristine (Birch Wilson), thirteen grandchildren, Charlotte, Henry, Soren, Byron, James, Ella Rose, Isabel, Skylar, Keats, Bjorn, Frida, Griffin, and Saga, and his brother, Charles Patrick Fox. His oldest brother, Kenneth Francis, Jr., youngest brother, David Keith, and infant daughter Meredith Elaine preceded him in death.

Jim was born on January 5, 1944 in Spokane, Washington, to parents Kenneth Francis Fox and Lillie Marie Hansen. He was the third of four brothers; Kennieand Pat the oldest, and Dave the youngest. The family moved to Hardin, Montana when Jim was two, and he had a wonderful childhood there, living among a close extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles. Jim spent many happy hours in the Hardin library and also loved to hunt for fossils in the surrounding area. Hardin is the county seat of Big Horn County with a population of about 3,000.

After graduating co-valedictorian from Hardin High School, Jim attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where he met his future wife, Margaret Elizabeth Hunter. He and Margaret attended the Semester Abroad in Salzburg, Austria and they married on August 22, 1968. Jim earned his bachelor’s degree in German at BYU, an M.A. at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago. He spent one year in Hamburg, Germany studying Maya hieroglyphic writing. 

Jim was offered a position in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University in 1974. He was a Resident Fellow in Arroyo and Rinconada in Wilbur Hall from 1975-1980, then in Cedro and Toyon from 1990-1994. 

As a linguistic anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Linguistics, Jim specialized in historical linguistics, linguistic prehistory, and the native languages of the Americas. His research interests focused on the history of the Mayan and Mixe-Zoquean language families, distant language relationships in the Americas and elsewhere, and the decipherment of Mayan writing. He spent several summers doing linguistic fieldwork in southern Mexico, focused on Ayapa-Zoque, a nearly-extinct language believed to be a descendant of the language of the Olmec civilization, and also conducted archival and field research on various Mayan languages, and on Russenorsk, a mixed Russo-Norwegian pidgin language of northern Norway. Jim was fluent in Norwegian, German, Spanish, and Quiché Mayan and had studied over 50 other languages. He was the director of the Latin American Studies program for several years.

Jim taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Stanford on linguistic anthropology, historical linguistics, language and culture, language and the environment, the biology and evolution of language, Mayan writing and culture, linguistic field methods, and several Latin American Indian languages, including Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, Quiché Mayan, and Quechua. He served as a principal consultant on Patricia Amlin’s film, Popol Vuh: Creation Myth of the Ancient Maya , which aired on PBS, and was also a consultant for the Stanford Museum of Art’s 1994 special exhibit on the Mesoamerican ball game. He also consulted on middle- and secondary-school course materials involving Mesoamerican prehistory. He also volunteered as a lecturer for Amigos de las Americas which three of his children later participated in.

Jim was a frequent lecturer on tours of Mesoamerica, Scandinavia, Spain, South America, and Montana for the Stanford Alumni Association’s Travel/Study Program. He accompanied over 50 trips from 1975 onwards. He received the 2016 Richard W. Lyman Award, which recognizes faculty for “extraordinary service” to the alumni association. Jim enriched the lives of his wife and children as well through these trips, bringing either Margaret or one of the children with him on nearly every program he led. He loved being a faculty member at Stanford and often said it was “like being paid to eat ice cream.”

Jim was a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a mission to Norway from 1963-66. In California he served the church in many roles over the years, including as counselor in the Stanford and Palo Alto First Wards, bishop of the Redwood City Spanish-speaking ward, scoutmaster, seminary teacher, family history consultant, and ordinance worker at the Oakland Temple. In the Stanford Ward he started a beekeeping project for the church’s welfare program. He once caught a swarm on the Stanford campus and had is picture in the Stanford Daily in his bee suit.

A memorial service will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel at 3865 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, California on Wednesday, August 14 at noon followed by burial at Fairview Cemetery in Hardin, Montana on Monday, August 19 at 1 pm.

Bullis Mortuary has been entrusted with the arrangements.

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