Cover photo for William D. Paul, Jr.'s Obituary
1934 Bill 2024

William D. Paul, Jr.

September 26, 1934 — May 3, 2024

Athens

William Dewitt "Bill" Paul, Jr., 89, of Athens, GA, passed away on Friday, May 3, 2024, following multiple extended illnesses. Born at home in the rural town of Wadley, GA, Bill spent his formative years amidst the charm of his family's general store and family farm, playing with and caring for farm animals and getting into trouble in elementary school for doodling on the bottoms of his shoes during nap time.

Bill is preceded in death by his dear wife of 51 years, Dorothy Ruth Hefling Paul, his son-in-law, Charles Clonts, and his parents, Sonoma Elizabeth Tinley Paul and William Dewitt Paul. He is survived by three daughters, Sarah Paul of Kennesaw, Susan Paul of Watkinsville, and Dot Paul (Greg Howell) of Atlanta, as well as by his nephew, David Jones of Houston, TX, and numerous cousins.

Inspired by two female artists in Wadley who encouraged Bill through his visits to their home studios, Bill sold a dozen eggs a week to purchase self-study manuals. By the completion of junior high school, he was selling watercolors of flowers, landscapes, and animals to the ladies of various garden clubs. His summer studies at the Atlanta College of Art during high school helped solidify his academic journey and career path. Following high school graduation, he attended the Atlanta College of Art, where he earned a BFA. He continued his studies at the University of Georgia, where he earned both an AB and an MFA.

In 1959, Bill began his career as a faculty member and gallery director at the Kansas City Art Institute. It was in Kansas City that Bill met his future wife, Dorothy. In 1965, he and Dorothy returned to Georgia and Bill’s alma mater. At UGA, he served as an art faculty member and Curator at the Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA) and in 1969, he became second Director of the GMOA. After a bitter clash with UGA administration in 1980, Bill returned to teaching in the School of Art, receiving the Sandy Beaver Teaching Professorship in 2000. He retired from UGA in 2002. 

Under the mentorship of Mr. Alfred Holbrook, Bill's legacy at the GMOA took hold. Bill’s footprint at the museum is characterized by his foresight in recognizing the significance of emerging artists long before they gained widespread acclaim. Through his astute acquisitions and groundbreaking exhibitions, he elevated the museum's profile and enriched its permanent collection. His discerning eye and dedication to showcasing artistic genius led to acquisitions that increased both the value and significance of the museum's holdings. Under his direction, the GMOA featured major exhibitions of notable artists including Alice Neel, Philip Pearlstein, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Audrey Flack. Throughout his career, Bill curated or co-curated more than 250 thematic exhibitions.

Mr. Paul was revered by his students, many of whom remained in touch decades after their college days. He was considered to be starkly candid, vastly knowledgeable, wryly humorous, relentlessly challenging, infinitely curious, and ultimately deeply concerned and caring.

Bill was a prolific artist in his own right. He devoted countless hours and energy to creating art across various media, including watercolor, oil painting, mixed media, found objects, photography, and video. His work, characterized by its depth and provocation, was shown in over 200 exhibitions throughout the United States, where he often challenged and pushed the boundaries of censorship.

After retirement, Bill became fascinated with early-mid 20th-century art pottery, about which he emerged as a distinguished scholar and collector. His contributions to the field, including numerous articles for the Journal of the American Art Pottery Association,promoted understanding and appreciation of this art form. The Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY, recently honored his expertise by featuring pieces from his collection in an exhibit called "The Turner's Prize." His dedication to preserving and promoting art pottery has left an enduring legacy, enriching the cultural landscape and inspiring future collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Bill was a devoted family man and a cherished friend. His wide-grinned smile, twinkling blue eyes, and strong personality, coupled with his sharp intellect and keen wit, illuminated the lives of those around him. He leaves behind a rich tapestry of memories and accomplishments that will continue to inspire those who were fortunate enough to have known him.

The family extends heartfelt thanks Drs. Ken Park, Matthew Crim, and Michael Sineway. Dr. Sineway’s unwavering attention to Bill's complicated health matters was literally lifesaving many times over. The family extends a special thank you to all of his caregivers - their hearts are bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. Bill's daughters particularly want to thank Sherry Carter, Claire Roembke, Kathryn Hubbard, Megan Miller, Cathy Hunter, Catherine Mouat, and Sandy Pitts, for their compassion and dedication.

A celebration of Bill's life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to: The Hope Clinic in Lawrenceville, GA, https://www.hopeclinicgwinnett.info/  Nuçi’s Space https://www.nuci.org/  or to a charity of your choice.
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