Jack Seward, 1924-2010

Families - December 3rd, 2010

Jack Seward, a legendary authority on Japan and a U.S. military veteran, passed away on November 10, 2010 at the age of 86 in Houston, Texas from post-stroke complications. A man of great intelligence, Jack leaves behind a legacy of international accomplishment and service.

Born John Neil Seward Jr. in Houston on October 11, 1924, ‘Jack’ grew up in Dallas and upon graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1941, started attending the University of Oklahoma.  During this period, an act of chance introduced him to his life-long connection to Japan — while spending several summers with his father John Seward Sr. working on the Frank Phillips ranch in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, two Japanese co-workers started to teach him some Japanese language.  At the age of 18, he volunteered for active duty in the U.S. Army, and upon discovering his knowledge of Japanese, the Army enrolled him in a special military intelligence training unit on Japan at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor where he graduated two years later second in his class.

Jack served under General Douglas MacArthur’s staff command during the occupation of Japan. This was the beginning of his 25 years spent living in Japan.  After his tenure in the Army, he served in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as part of their Asian operations before moving into the private sector where he worked in Tokyo as the Far East representative of several U.S. companies such as Sunbeam Corp and Scholastic Books, as well as for Japanese companies such as the Yashica Camera Company.  His father John Sr., a WW I veteran, moved to Japan during these years to join Jack. John Sr. lived in Japan for over a decade, where he remarried to Kimiko Uema of Okinawa, and together had one son — John Sr. passed away in Tokyo in 1964.

In 1963, Jack married Aiko “Jean” Morimoto of Shikoku, and together had two sons. Over the course of these years, he built his reputation as a leading Japan expert and linguist, obtained a doctorate’s degree following post-graduate studies at the University of Hawaii, and also commenced pursuing his interest in writing books.

Thereafter, Jack returned to his native Texas with his family in order to spend time with his mother Lanelle Denny and her husband Jack Newman on their family ranch near Celeste, Texas, and to concrete on his writing and teaching.  He taught courses on Japanese culture, history and language at the University of Texas at Dallas and at Austin College, and lectured frequently throughout the states including television appearances on Japanese culture and how to do business with the Japanese.  In later years, he worked for Ecology and Environment of New York as director of international operations, and then served as president of International Consulting Services, Inc in Houston.

Jack wrote a total of 45 books, published in Japan and the U.S., covering a broad spectrum of fiction and non-fiction. His best known work was ‘The Japanese’, published by William Morrow & Co in 1972 which was the most widely read book on Japanese culture at a time of growing Japanese economic power.  His longest selling book was ‘Japanese in Action’, a commentary on the Japanese language. He also wrote books in Japanese in order to explain American culture.

In 1986, the Emperor of Japan awarded Jack the Order of the Sacred Treasure, for his widely-recognized contributions to mutual understanding and strengthening of relations between the U.S. and Japan.

Jack leaves a legacy of international values stretching beyond Japan, which is partially reflected in his surviving family — wife Jean, sons John Neil Seward III and William Kenneth Seward, brother Robert Uema Seward, grandchildren, extended family members and friends.

Jack’s iconic spirit will be dearly missed by family and friends around the globe.