Justin Murphy Nolan

August 31, 1971May 19, 2020

Dr. Justin Murphy Nolan, age 48, a resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas, passed from this life into the next on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, of a sudden heart attack. Justin is survived by his mother, Betty Linda Nolan, his father, Robert C. Nolan, both of El Dorado, Arkansas, his brother, Robert C. Nolan, Jr., of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, his sister, Carrie Elizabeth Nolan, of Grapevine, Texas, two nieces, Isabelle Hopkins Nolan and Sarah Elizabeth Koch, and two nephews, Robert Calvert Nolan III and William S. Koch, Jr.

He was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, on August 31, 1971. He was, in Grade School, a member of the first “Gifted and Talented” program in the El Dorado School System. He graduated with Honors from El Dorado High School in 1989. At a young age, he knew that he wanted to be a Teacher, and wanted to share what he knew with others, to inspire them, and encourage them. He was awarded a “Presidents Scholarship” to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, from where he graduated with Honors in 1993, with a B.A. in Anthropology. He gained his master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Missouri in 1996, and his PhD in Cultural Anthropology in 2000. That year he was named Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri. He accepted the position of Visiting Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville in 2002. In 2010 he was named Associate Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Anthropology and was elected Department Chair in 2016.

He was widely published, authoring two books and multiple articles, 11 Book Chapters, 2 book reviews. He was an invited Lecturer in Learning Institutions across the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. He was recognized worldwide as an expert in his field. Additionally, he was recognized for his knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs and their application in Native American Culture, as well as in the early Ozark settlements. He had a great thirst for knowledge that was never quenched.

He was a gifted photographer, loved the Earth and Sky, and he observed it all with a profound sense of wonder. He studied and chronicled the evolution of human behavior and society with a keen eye.

He was brilliant, loving and kind. Everyone who knew him, loved him, and all mourn his passing. He cast a bright light into every life that knew him, and he will be forever missed.

A private family interment service was held, and a public Memorial Celebration will be announced. Condolences may be expressed at


Justin Murphy Nolan

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Muhammad Asad Ghufran

May 14, 2021

Knowing that our friend Justin has started to live in the heaven of God Since May 19, 2020, I feel that I lost one of the best friends and the great man who made me believe that I can do ethnobiology based research along with my career as a cancer researcher at UH Hilo. Justin made this happen through a wonderful conference at his home town for which he was the main/Chief Organizer.
This was the 31st Conference of Society of Ethnobiology took place at Fayetteville, Arkansas April 16–19, 2008 University of Arkansas and Cherokee Nation supported this activity only because of this great man. A total of 67 research papers
7 posters were presented, I contributed two, i.e. one in each each only because he supported me to do so.
I will keep you in my prayers always........
my Friend, Justin M. Nolan

Nancy Turner

January 9, 2021

I knew Justin through the Society of Ethnobiology and had the honour of coauthoring a chapter on Ethnobotany with him, for the Society's book on Ethnobiology. i loved working with Justin, and seeing him at our meetings over the years. What a kind and gentle man he was, and although i did not see him very often in person, I miss him very much, and still think of him often. My deepest condolences to Justin's family. His bright, strong spirit lives on for sure!

Colby Vinson

October 15, 2020

Dr. Nolan was my professor for an Intro. to Anthropology course during my time at the University of Arkansas in 2013. Because of his passion shown in that one course, I declared my major as Anthropology and took three additional courses solely to learn from him.

If there was anyone that I considered a mentor during my college years, it was Dr. Nolan. His passion, desire to teach, and overall kindness were foundational to who I wanted to become as a person, often waiting after class just to talk to him about interesting topics or potential research projects. In a time I needed it most, he pushed me to keep striving for my dreams and ultimately wrote a letter of recommendation for me to attend medical school.

Today, as a first year medical student, in a meeting with my new advisor, we got on a topic that I immediately related back to Dr. Nolan's course when he assigned us a book that one of his friends had written regarding pica. After reflecting back on the class to my colleagues, I found his memorial benefit on the front page of the Anthropology undergrad page.

Thank you Dr. Nolan, for everything.

Colby Vinson

Annette Robbins

August 31, 2020

Happy 49th birthday in heaven Justin....where you will always be loved. We miss our brother, our son, our family's dearest friend. Love you and God bless!

Chris Knox

August 31, 2020

We never forgot each others’ birthdays. Today we celebrate your manifestation into this life and the joy you carried with you. I lost my mother earlier in May, and then I lost a brother. Never have I personally known more loving hearts or kindred spirits. I grieve sad tears, but through the pain there is joy in knowing they never left us and our connection to their spirits can never die. Happy birthday, Justin. You were a gift to my world.

Margaret MacConnell

August 25, 2020

As an anthropology student at the University of Arkansas, I had only taken one of Dr. Nolan's classes but it's safe to say that I immediately became aware of his passion and kindness the moment I met him.

Dr. Nolan was incredibly smart and always emphasized unity in each thing he taught. I cannot emphasize enough how driven he was in the field of anthropology and you could tell how much he enjoyed teaching his students. Dr. Nolan also had a great way of making everyone he interacted with feel like they contributed something great to the conversation no matter how simple it was.

I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear about his passing today. Wanting to teach anthropology myself, I have no doubt that I will reflect on and use Dr. Nolans undoubtable selflessness and passion in my own similar career path. His loved ones are forever in my thoughts.

Margaret MacConnell

Randraen Reon Mobley

August 18, 2020

Dr. Nolan was my advisor when I was in college. Dr. Nolan asked me if he could be my advisor because he saw more in me than what I saw in myself with anthropology. The reason why I’m on this page right now is because I finally feel like I understand what he was trying to teach me about school, about anthropology, and about life.

And I found out today that he passed away 3 months ago.

I am so hurt by the news. I regularly tried to keep up with what was going on with him and I always thought that I would have another chance to talk to him and enjoy his company.

Dr. Nolan is one of the most passionate teachers I have ever had and when I took his class I knew that anthropology would not only be my field but my life. He taught me that everything is connected except where they are not, and that everything together is more than the sum of its parts...except when it’s not!

I know one thing for certain at the moment: Dr. Nolan taught me that this moment would come to pass. Life changes through every season and, because of that, we have to appreciate every moment that we have presently.

The only gift I know that Dr. Nolan wants from me, and from us all here, is to keep living authentically. To invest in the lost moments of humanity in which we turn a blind eye. To have a healthy respect for the past, a even temperament for the present, and hope for the future.

Freddie Bowles

July 24, 2020

As a brand new professor in education, I met Justin through the Native American Symposium Committee. He was so kind, gracious, and generous. It was always nice to run into him on campus because he really cared about his colleagues and their well-being. His loss is a great blow to our campus community. I pray for your comfort now and in the days to come.

Brad Hall

July 22, 2020

Justin taught me my final anthropology class at the University of Arkansas. He was an excellent professor that loved what he did and cared about his students and made anthropology exciting. Thank you Justin, you will be missed!

Elle Dcoda

July 10, 2020

Justin was one of the greats, he gave so much of himself, full of life. When I lived in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness he was a life line to the outside world, bought me an energy efficient computer I could use with solar power to do my research. Came to my aide when it was time to leave. Invited me along with Kent Bonar as guests to the Ethnobotany Conference he headed at the University. He was a rock of support for so very many. One thing is for certain, he is finding a beautiful welcome on the other side.