Barn 03

Francis G. Ham

April 13, 1930 ~ June 5, 2021 (age 91)


Francis Gerald (Jerry) Ham, 91, died  June 5, 2021, in Madison. Jerry was born April 13, 1930 in Tom’s River, New Jersey. 

He graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois with a degree in history. It was at Wheaton where he met the love of his life, Elsie Jeane Magill of Lexington, Kentucky. After graduating from Wheaton in 1952, he moved to Lexington to join Elsie who was teaching 7th grade at Lafayette Junior High and to begin his graduate studies. In 1953 Jerry and Elsie were married at First Methodist Church in Lexington.

Jerry interrupted his formal graduate work at the University of Kentucky in 1955 with nearly two years in the Army Counterintelligence Corps, but during his posting in Washington, DC, he continued his dissertation research on a history of the Shakers, working two half-days a week at the Library of Congress. He received MA and PhD degrees from the University of Kentucky. In 1964, he and Elsie and their four young children moved to Madison where he accepted the position of state archivist of Wisconsin and head of the division of archives and manuscripts at the Wisconsin Historical Society. In 1966, the University of Wisconsin’s School of Library and Information Studies invited Jerry to create a graduate education program in archives administration. The initial one-course offering expanded to a full degree program and over the years he trained hundreds of students in the profession. He also served as President (1973-74) and Secretary (1968-71) of the Society of American Archivists.

In 1988, as part of the thawing relations between the United State and the Soviet Union, Jerry was invited to participate in the first-ever archivist exchange between the countries. He traveled to Moscow and Baku, meeting with local archivists and sharing the practices he developed and advocated for throughout North America. He retired in 1990. In 1973, Jerry and Elsie purchased a 90-acre hobby farm in Wauzeka, Wisconsin, which quickly became their beloved Wild Oats Farm. For 37 years, Jerry thrived in his role as gentleman farmer and loved having family, especially his grandsons, and friends join Elsie and him on weekends. Jerry became a gourmet chef in his 40s and particular.

Jerry is survived by his wife of nearly 68 years, Elsie Magill Ham; his three daughters, Anne Hernandez, Carolyn Ham and Judy Ham; his twin, Joan Aughinbaugh of Champaign, IL and sister, Shirley Rogers of Dallas, TX; grandsons Michael Hernandez (Kristen), Cary Walters, Tim Hernandez (Jamie), Brian Hernandez (Jasmine), Scott Beauchamp, Ben Burton, and Joe Hedin (Abbey Miranda); great grandchildren, Landon, Rylan, Adam, Cade, Eli and Mara; sister-in-law Peggy Southgate (Herb). He was preceded in death by his son, Robert Magill Ham, parents Francis Gordon Ham and Marjorie Clark Ham, sister, Roberta Sorkowitz, brother, Keith Ham (Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada) and special nephew Eric Sterling. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Society of American Archivists, F. Gerald and Elsie M. Ham Scholarship Fund the Wisconsin Historical Society, or an organization close to your heart.

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