Julius Mosal “Bro” Ridgway died peacefully at his home in Jackson, MS in the early morning hours on Sunday, May 30, at the age of 87.
Julius was born on December 25, Christmas Day, in 1933, in Jackson, MS. A lifelong resident of Jackson, he attended Jackson Public Schools, graduating from Central High School as Class President in 1952. He was by all accounts a tough and scrappy member of the Central High football team. When recounting his glory days on the gridiron, he never failed to remind his children that he suffered a broken nose, because “there were no facemasks back then.”
Although he originally aspired to attend Mississippi State 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 the University of Mississippi, a decision that would shape the course of his career and life. While at Ole Miss, he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, made many great friendships, and developed a life-long love for Ole Miss and Ole Miss athletics.
Following graduation, he served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a non-commissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne division. Among his favorite tales from his Army days, to his kids at least, is that he had his wisdom teeth removed by an Army dentist, after which he had to report right back to barracks. He was eventually stationed in Germany, where he bought a convertible sports car, which he used to traipse across Europe with a friend or two before returning home after the completion of his service. The details of this adventure were suspiciously light, but we all imagine it was one of the grandest times of his life.
Upon his return to Jackson, he started his career in the oil business with the family firm, Ridgway Management, Inc. It was during this time that he “learned the ropes,” and he spoke fondly of mentors such as Dean Miller, Ralph Hines, Will Knight, Harold Karges, Dudley Hughes, and Marvin Oxley.
In 1966 Julius was recruited by Dean Miller to First National Bank, where he served as Vice President of the Petroleum Department until his departure in 1973, when 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. During this time his industry memberships, affiliations and leadership positions were too numerous to list, but he 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, he helped form the Mississippi Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (MIPRO) to organize and protect the rights and opportunities of independent mineral owners and producers. Additionally, he acquired and donated thousands of well logs to the University of Mississippi to encourage students to pursue careers in oil and gas and give geologists access to new data to help exploration projects in the state. This effort, and the establishment of a foundation to help fund its ongoing success, led to him being named Engineer of Distinction at the University of Mississippi in 2007, perhaps one of his proudest accolades.
Throughout his career, and his many business successes, his family is perhaps most proud of his reputation for fairness and generosity in all of his business and personal dealings.
Politics was another interest that Julius pursued with passion. He was the State Finance Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party from 1970 to 1983 and served as the Treasurer of Thad Cochran’s first Congressional campaign in 1972, helping to launch what turned out to be a prolific Senatorial career. He remained active in politics and the Mississippi Republican Party throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Outside of politics, perhaps the civic involvement that he most cherished was his decades of service on the Board of Directors of the Boys Clubs of Mississippi.
He was an avid tennis player and loved golf as well. He loved to be on the tennis court or golf course with friends and family. He was, at various times, a long-time member of River Hills Club, Annandale Golf Club and the Country Club of Jackson, where he could most likely be found anytime he wasn’t at home or work. Ever eager to learn and improve, he kept meticulous notes from lessons and clinics and cherished his summer golf trips to Virginia with his family. He always displayed exemplary sportsmanship and remained a competitive tennis player well into his 70s, so much so that his grown sons rarely, if ever, won a set against him, let alone a match.
He enjoyed traveling very much with his wife Mary Jane. Among their favorite spots were Destin, FL, the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, and Palm Desert, CA, all of which afforded him the opportunity to continue to hone his tennis and golf skills. He was also a long-time supporter of Ole Miss Athletics and enjoyed going to football games and spending time in Oxford.
Julius was a long-time member of Northminster Baptist Church where he often taught Sunday school and participated regularly in Men’s Prayer Group on Wednesday mornings. He and Mary Jane enjoyed worship and fellowship with both friends and family at Northminster.
Julius 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); step-children 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. He is preceded in death by his parents Louis Ernest Ridgway, Sr. and Leona Ridgway; his sister Leona York and his brother Louis Ernest Ridgway, Jr.; his son-in-law Stennis Wells; and his stepdaughter Mary Ashley Hall.
He took great pride in watching his and Mary Jane’s children grow and prosper into adulthood, and start families of their own, and watching the grandchildren start to embark on their own journeys. He loved them all and they loved him.
The family wishes to extend a special thank you to his loving caretakers Barbara Brooks, Tina Washington, Bobbie Fleming, and Winnetka Love McCloud.
A funeral service will be held at Northminster Baptist Church at 2:00 pm on Friday, June 4, 2021. Visitation will precede the service, starting at 1:00 pm. Honorary pall bearers are: Press York, Jimmy Hays, Henry Tyler, Mike Jabaley, David McNamara, Kent Wilkinson, Jeff Miller, George Smith, Cecil Burnham, Sammy Ross, and all the men in the Men’s Bible Study and Sunday School Class at Northminster. In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to Boys Clubs of Mississippi, 407 Briarwood Drive, Suite # 223, Jackson, MS 39206 or the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund at Northminster Baptist Church, 3955 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211.