John Hugh Adam Watson, CMG


Adam Watson    
August 10, 1914 - August 21, 2007

We all wonder, perhaps, how we will look back on our lives at the end.  Will we consider our lives a success?  Did we find fulfillment in our achievements?  Was our time happily spent?

Outwardly, my father had a highly successful and varied career.  As British ambassador to several countries, he worked for diplomatic accord alongside prime ministers, presidents, British royalty, and foreign dignitaries.  As an author and scholar, he shared a committee with leading academics in his field, pioneering a theory of international relations which evolved over a series of critically acclaimed books and papers.  As an administrator of international foundations, he helped secure intellectual freedom for scholars and artists living under politically restrictive regimes.  As a playwright, he had several original dramas and translations performed on the BBC.  Finally, as a lecturer at the University of Virginia, he enjoyed the satisfaction of mentoring many exceptional students, while completing his own academic writings.

Even more significantly, though, he will have reflected back on other, more personal successes.  The centerpiece of his life was undoubtedly a remarkable marriage to a beloved wife of 57 years: a lifelong companion who celebrated his achievements, shared his many interests, and eased the journey of his final illness.  He also produced three loving children, each enriched by a half-century of fond memories of a wonderful father, and each able to travel internationally to spend valuable time with him in his final days.  His own upbringing, in England and elsewhere, generated warm and lasting family ties as well.  His childhood, his wedding and marriage, the birth of his children, his 50th anniversary celebration surrounded by his grandchildren … these must have numbered among his happiest memories.

My father had many wonderful qualities.  The few I’ve chosen to list here are things I remember from childhood, things that impressed me growing up and helped shape me as a person and as a parent in my own right.  He avoided declaring uninformed opinions, preferring to remain tactfully neutral until in possession of the facts; thus, I viewed him as a dependable source of accurate information.  He took care to include all three of his children without favoritism, while still sharing special moments with each; thus, I perceived him as a model of fairness.  He encouraged us, as children, to think for ourselves and to form our own opinions; thus, he encouraged both independence of thought and an appreciation for arts and literature, as well as the personal creative endeavors which have formed a central part of my own life.  He always had advice ready to offer, but never pushed it upon us unsolicited; thus, I perceived him as available and sympathetic, but never controlling. 

A final memory of my father is that he would speculatively refer to occasions as being potentially the “last time” some family event might occur.  During a school vacation in Cuba, it was perhaps the “last time” we might visit a favorite beach; or, as our days in London drew to a close, the “last time” the five of us, as a family, might sit down to dinner in our dining room, overlooking the flower garden that brought him such pleasure.  Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the final “last time” that brought the five of us together in the same room was the occasion of his 93rd birthday, at his hospital bedside in England … and that a few days later, shortly before his death, the last words he spoke to me – at a time when the physical act of speaking had become increasingly difficult – was a clearly expressed “Goodbye, Douglas.”  All of those “last times” have now passed; yet the times he will be remembered with fondness by all of us will continue for years, even generations, to come.

Douglas Watson

We hope you enjoy your journey through this site...

...and that it brings back fond memories for those who knew Adam.  If you are so moved, the Adam Watson Award page speaks to the memorial fund we have set up in my father's name at UVA.  There is a link there if you would like to contribute to it, and we, of course, would be most grateful for any contributions.