Cover photo for James Warren (Doc) Neilson's Obituary
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1933 James 2015

James Warren (Doc) Neilson

June 19, 1933 — August 3, 2015

James Warren (Doc) Neilson, Ph.D., 82, of Mayville, ND died August 3, 2015 at the Luther Memorial Home in Mayville, ND. He was born June 19, 1933 in St. Louis, Mo. to Anna Lillian (Jones) and John William (Bill) Neilson, who lived in Sparta, Ill. Doc graduated from high school in 1951 at New London, Mo., then completed both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State University) in four years. After completing the Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in the spring of 1958 he was hired to teach American history and economics at Mayville State Teachers College. After rising through the ranks to become a full professor and chairman of his department, Doc retired from Mayville State in 1998 after 40 years of service. He was awarded the title “Professor Emeritus of History and Economics” by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. Doc authored three books. His doctoral dissertation, “Shelby B. Cullom, Prairie State Republican” was published by the University of Illinois Press. He also wrote “From Protest to Preservation: What Republicans Have Believed.” He wrote the first edition and a revision of “The School of Personal Service, A History of Mayville State College,” a history that encompassed his personal recollections. He also wrote an article on his collection of hunting-case pocket watches for the magazine Spinning Wheel. Doc’s interests included railroads, firearms and major league baseball. He was a member of several national history organizations and for years was the national president of Alpha Phi Sigma, a national honor society. He was also the adviser for the Mayville State chapter. A member of the Mayville Masonic Lodge for more than 40 years, he served as master, chapter historian and chaplain. He was named Mason of the Year and was proud to be the Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of North Dakota. Doc was an avid walker, letter writer, and reader. Losing his eyesight was a difficult circumstance that led to his move into the Luther Memorial Home in July 2013. Doc has no surviving family. His parents and his sister, Jinny preceded him in death, as did his brothers, Wesley and Virgil, who died before Doc was born. He was especially close to his friend and Mayville State Colleague for 40 years, Dr. Merwin Lyng. Merwin, his wife, Myrna, and their children, Karen, Kathy and John, became Doc’s family. Doc was proud to be Karen Elizabeth’s godfather. He was “Uncle Doc” to the Lyng children as well as to children of other friends. According to Doc’s wishes, in lieu of flowers, memorials can be given to the LMH, 750 East Main St., Mayville, N. D., 58257; MSU Foundation Office, Mayville State University, 330 Third St. N. E., Mayville, N. D.; Mayville Lutheran Church, 24 Third Ave S. E., Mayville; or the Goose River Masonic Lodge, PO Box 221, Mayville, N. D. Visitation: Will be 5 – 7 PM with a 7 PM Public Prayer Service and a 7:30 PM Masonic Prayer Service on Friday, August 7, 2015 at the Baker Funeral Home in Mayville, ND and will resume one hour prior to the service at the church. Funeral Service: 10:30 AM Saturday, August 8, 2015 at Mayville Lutheran Church in Mayville, ND. Burial: Will be in the Mayville Cemetery, where Doc will lie next to his sister, Jinny.
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