John F. Oates, 71, died at the Forest at Duke in Durham on Saturday, June 24, 2006.
Oates was professor emeritus of ancient history and classics at Duke and was recognized as one of America's outstanding papyrologists and a leading expert on Egypt in the Ptolemaic period.
He was born in 1934 and educated at Yale University and also was awarded a Fulbright fellowship for Study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens in 1956-57.
After teaching at Yale, Oates moved in 1967 to Duke, where he played an important role in the building of the Department of Classical Studies. Oates served the department as
chair from 1971 to 1980, and simultaneously served the university as chair of its Humanities Council (1975-79). He served four years as president of the American Society of Papyrologists and was a trustee of the National Humanities Center.
In collaboration with R. S. Bagnall, K. Worp, and the late W. H. Willis, the Checklist of Papyri, Ostraca, and Tablets, now a standard for reference to published papyri. A Checklist of Arabic Papyri has more recently supplemented the earlier volume.
Oates also co-founded with Willis the Duke Data Rank of Documentary Papyri, a searchable, electronic corpus of previously published Greek and Latin texts. He also, in collaboration with Duke University Library, oversaw the creation of The Duke Papyrus Archive as a pioneering resource that presented in digitized form almost 1,400 pieces.
Oates is survived by his wife of 49 years, Rosemary Walsh Oates; his daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Oates of Durham; and son-in-law, Dr. John Shin; granddaughters, Catherine and Alexandra Shin; his daughter, Emily Oates Wingfield of Richmond, Va.; and son-in-law, Alan Wingfield; grandchildren, Julia and Henry Wingfield; his son, John F. Oates, Jr. of Raleigh; and daughter-in-law, Mary Ruffin Hanbury; his daughter, Sarah Oates of Glasgow; and son-in-law, David Cross; grandchildren, Laura and Emma Cross.