James D. “Jim” Davidson, Jr., 79, passed away on May 22, 2022. Dr. Davidson was President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion from 2006 to 2007. He was a national authority in the sociology of religion and a popular keynote speaker at gatherings of bishops, religious educators, and other church leaders. He was also an avid golfer, achieving four holes in one on the golf course.
Jim earned his bachelor’s degree in 1964 at Fairfield University and his master’s in 1966 and doctorate in 1969 from the University of Notre Dame. He joined the sociology faculty at Purdue University in 1968 and taught there until he retired in 2009. Jim and his colleague Roger Finke were central in building the sociology of religion program at Purdue University. Jim also played a leadership role in the survival, stability, and success of Lafayette Urban Ministry, a local interdenominational social services collaborative. In addition, to his term as president of the ASR, he served as president of the Religious Research Association, president of the North Central Sociological Association, editor of the Review of Religious Research, and executive officer of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
Married for more than 50 years to the former Anna Catherine Tassone, the couple had two children and four grandchildren and were parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center at Purdue University. While Jim was executive officer of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Anna always staffed the registration desk at the annual meetings and the two of them provided a healthy dose of Midwestern hospitality along with registration packets and information.
Jim had a very productive and fulfilling career, with research focused on religion and social inequality. He was author or co-author of nine well-received books on these subjects. His research on the changes in the Catholic Church and trends among American Catholics was considered exemplary, received numerous awards, and shifted attention from age-related to generation-related explanations of change. Although he achieved broad acclaim for his scholarship in the sociology of religion, Jim is perhaps most remembered for his mentorship. He shepherded dozens of young scholars through their Ph.D. process and collaborated with colleagues and friends on countless endeavors, both academic and community-focused. His patient encouragement and ready smile made a difference in the lives of all he touched. His impact on the sociology of religion and on his community will be a lasting one.