UM Remembers Julius M. Ridgway

Geological engineering alumnus succeeded in oil, gas industry, supported alma mater

Julius Ridgway. Courtesy of

University of Mississippi faculty, staff, alumni and students are remembering the contributions of Julius Mosal Ridgway (BSGE 56), a geological engineering alumnus who became a titan in the oil and gas industry and later generously supported his beloved alma mater.

A lifelong Jackson resident, Ridgway, 87, died peacefully at his home in the early morning hours on May 30.

“Mr. Ridgway had significant impact on Ole Miss Engineering financially, such as through the Woods Society that benefits students but also by establishing a geological data and resource center,” said Dave Puleo, engineering school dean.

“By donating more than 100,000 well logs to our MMRI (Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute), Mr. Ridgway didn’t simply make us custodian of data, holding significant financial potential for Mississippi, but he enabled numerous projects that prepared students for successful careers in geology and geological engineering. Mr. Ridgway’s generosity is appreciated, and he will be missed.”

Although Ridgway originally aspired to attend Mississippi State University to study animal husbandry and become a cattle farmer, a last-minute change of heart led him to pursue a degree in geological engineering from UM. That decision would shape the course of his career and life.

While at Ole Miss, he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and made many great friendships. He developed a lifelong love for Ole Miss, including athletics.

Following graduation, Ridgway served two years of active duty in the U.S. Army as a noncommissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Upon his return to Jackson, he started his career in the oil business with the family firm, Ridgway Management Inc. In 1966, Ridgway was recruited to join First National Bank, where he served as vice president of the petroleum department until his departure in 1973.

He struck out on his own as an “independent” in oil and gas exploration, production and investment, a career he enjoyed well into his 80s. Ridgway was a fierce advocate for the independent oil and gas industry and tirelessly promoted energy exploration in the state of Mississippi throughout his life.

In 1989, Ridgway helped form the Mississippi Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association to organize and protect the rights and opportunities of independent mineral owners and producers.

Julius Ridgway (left) discusses the possibilities of using old oil data with geological engineering major Nick Sullivan and Roger Young. Archive photo from 2014-15 Ole Miss Engineer

He also acquired and donated thousands of well logs from the private collections of independent oil and gas geologists to UM to encourage students to pursue careers in oil and gas, and give geologists access to data to help exploration projects in the state.

Many of these private well log collections predate the formation of the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board and the development of its well log repository. These well logs, along with the supporting geological data and interpretations from these private collections, form a valuable resource for energy research in Mississippi.

Through Ridgway’s personal connections with these independent oil and gas producers, he was able to acquire their collections and donate them to the School of Engineering for study in the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute.

This effort, and the establishment of a foundation to help fund its ongoing success, led to him being named Engineer of Distinction at UM in 2007.

Ridgway served as president of the School of Engineering Alumni Chapter and the school’s advisory boards. Active in everything geology related over the years, he mentored many students along the way.

“I do recall Julius and a few others lobbying Dr. (Robert C.) Khayat and others at the university to take over what is now Brevard Hall,” said Clay Cavett, associate director of alumni affairs at the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

Ridgway is survived by his wife of 24 years, Mary Jane Ray Ridgway; his children, Julius M. Ridgway Jr. (Stephanie), Mildred Rainwater Ridgway (Dorsey), John Grayson Ridgway (Lindsey); stepchildren Courtney Hall Murphy (Spencer), Clayton Hall (Stuart); grandchildren, Allison Santa Cruz, Colin Ridgway, Elizabeth Wells, Parke Ridgway, Libby Ridgway, Jane Murphy, Clayton Murphy, Campbell Hall, Fletcher Hall and Tatum Hall.