The achievements of Ralph Jordan Jr.


Recently, Opelika resident retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins has been featured in local, state and national media for having been presented the Medal of Honor by President Obama.
This award is the most prestigious honor bestowed on present and former members of the United States armed forces. Considering his heroic actions in the Vietnam Conflict, Bennie richly deserves the award and the media attention he has received.
Another individual whose outstanding achievements should have, but have not, received media attention is Ralph Jordan Jr, son of the late “Shug” and Evelyn Jordan.
Jordan was recognized as one of Auburn’s distinguished alumni by the university’s College of Sciences and Mathematics at a large gathering of his friends and family members on Nov. 7 at the Saugahatchee Country Club. Previous recipients include Drs. Lloyd Nix, Don Logan, David Hagan and the late astronaut Col. Henry (Hank) Hartsfield.
Following are excerpts from a biographic sketch of Jordan presented at the award ceremony and some of my own opinions relating to his background and accomplishments. Ralph earned his bachelor’s in biological science and his master’s in zoology at Auburn during the 1970s. During his tenure as an Auburn student, I was his undergraduate advisor and directed his master’s research, which dealt with the life history and ecology of the Red Hills salamander, Alabama’s official amphibian. From the time he enrolled at Auburn until his departure, I considered Ralph to be my “right-hand man,” assisting me with curatorial duties in caring for our collections of living and preserved reptiles and amphibians and accompanying me on numerous field trips in Alabama and surrounding states.
Jordan was quoted as saying, “Auburn laid the foundation for my career. Everything I accomplished was a by-product of the patience and persistence of the outstanding faculty and administrators of Auburn.”
After receiving his master’s degree, Ralph was employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a non-game and endangered species biologist and ultimately assumed responsibility for natural resource management of all of TVA’s public lands.
He ensured compliance with federal legislation, including the Endangered Species, Clean Water, and Environmental Policy Acts. Because of his accumulated knowledge of natural communities and rare plants and animal species, his input was often sought by utilities and developers. Before his retirement, after 32 years, he received TVA’s Bronze Honor Award.
As a sustaining Life Member of the Auburn Alumni Association, Ralph served on its board in numerous capacities, including its president. He was a member of both the steering committee for the “It Begins at Auburn” campaign and the university’s Athletics Advisory Committee. Since 1994, Jordan has been a member of COSAM’s Leadership Council and currently serves as its president.
One of Ralph’s endeavors I especially appreciate was his involvement in helping to establish Auburn University’s Natural History Museum.
For several years he worked tirelessly in this endeavor, along with Dr. Stewart Schneller, the late Dr. Marie Wooten, and several other faculty members. As a result of the efforts of these dedicated individuals, the idea of a natural history museum became a reality.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.


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