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Downer, James Walker (1864–1932)

J. D. Bragg Biography Entry

James Walker Downer, classical scholar, was born in Orange County, Virginia, on June 23, 1864, the son of William Walker and Lucy Mary (Reynolds) Downer. He attended the University of Virginia, where he received the B.A. degree in 1895 and the M.A. in 1897. He taught for a year in high school in Charlottesville and was a teacher of Latin in Richmond College in 1898–99. After serving a year as principal of the high school at Clifton Forge, Virginia, and three years as teacher in the Marion (Alabama) Military Institute, Downer won a fellowship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his Ph.D. in Latin in 1905. For three years he taught in the Friends Central School in Philadelphia. In 1908 he moved to Texas to become head of the Latin department at Baylor University. He married Corneille Willingham of Richmond, Virginia, on December 28, 1909. Downer was the author of two works: Metaphors and Word-Plays in Petronius (1913), which is still a standard work in Petronian scholarship, and A Plea for Latin (1916). He was a Democrat and Baptist. From 1922 until his death he served as chairman of the graduate council of Baylor University. He died in Waco on March 19, 1932.

Baylor Daily Lariat, March 22, 29, 1932. Who Was Who in America, Vol. 2.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Classics and Philosophy
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Scholars, Editors, and Critics

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

J. D. Bragg, “Downer, James Walker,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 25, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.