UA Couple Each Win Lifetime Achievement Award

  • November 14th, 2016
Dr. Vernon James Knight
Dr. Vernon James Knight

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Jim Knight, a professor emeritus of anthropology at The University of Alabama, and Dr. Judith Knight, a longtime editor at UA Press, were each awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southeastern Archaeological Conference for their decades of groundbreaking work in the field of archaeology in the South.

The two are married.

“I have known both of the Knights for almost 40 years,” said Dr. Ian W. Brown, professor and chair of the UA’s department of anthropology. “Jim and I are Southeastern archaeologists and have overlapped at UA for the past quarter century. His work at Moundville is enough testimony to a scholar who has attained lifetime achievement, but he’s done so much more over the years.

“And Judith, in her capacity of having worked for both the UA Press and now the University of Florida Press, has done more to promote the publishing of works relating to Southeastern archaeology than anyone in the past or present. Together they have had a profound effect on the discipline.”

Dr. Gregory Waselkov, a professor of anthropology at the University of South Alabama and past president of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, had the honor of presenting the conference’s highest award to the Knights last month.

He said the 12-year-old award is bestowed upon retired members of the conference who have greatly impacted archaeology in the Southeast in some way.

“The conference has 1,100 members, and a lot of them have worked in the Southeast their entire careers, so we have many members who are deserving of this award,” Waselkov said. “I was really pleased that Jim and Judith both received awards.”

Jim Knight spent 26 years as an anthropology professor at UA before retiring in 2014. In that time, he authored, edited and co-edited nearly a dozen books and published about 50 articles, Waselkov said.

Most of his work concentrated on the former Native America city and burial ground known today as Moundville.

“Jim has really helped people around the country understand the immense significance of Moundville,” Waselkov said. “It was undoubtedly the largest Native American town in the region back in the 13th century A.D. and it’s now the biggest prehistoric site in the state.

Drs. John Blitz, Vernon James Knight, center, and Doug Jones, holding cap, each assist in telling Moundville's story. (Photo by Laura Shill)
Drs. John Blitz, Vernon James Knight, center, and the late Doug Jones, holding cap, kneel at Moundville.

“Jim’s work showed how the place transitioned from a city to a burial ground. He’s revolutionized our thinking about life at Moundville in that era. It was the pinnacle of Native American life in the Southeast and was a major metropolis.”

Jim Knight said receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award is an enormous and unexpected honor.

“It was very unexpected, and I’m quite pleased,” he said.

Waselkov said they chose to honor Judith Knight with a Lifetime Achievement Award because in her 32-years of work at the UA Press she was one of a few editors publishing the research of archaeologists in the Southeast.

“Her major achievement was to realize that archaeologists needed an outlet for book publishing, and there were very few presses back in the 1980s that published archaeology,” he said. “She was able to recruit over 250 books on archaeology over her career.

“It’s hard for us to have a career in archaeology if our work doesn’t get out there. She helped make it possible for lots of us to present our interpretations to the public. She also made a great effort to recruit women authors and publish their books by The University of Alabama Press.”

Judith Knight, who actually began her career in archaeology before switching to acquisitions, said she’s amazed and surprised that she was chosen for the award.

“I’m humbled because the people who recommended me realized the importance of publishing the work they do,” she said. “It’s a circle of academic life that everyone knows about, and I play a small part of it, specifically with archaeology in the Southeast and the Caribbean.”


Jim Knight,, 205/765-2218; Judith Knight,, 205/523-3890


Jamon Smith, media relations,, 205/348-4956

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