Dr. Melvin Gary Newton, professor of chemistry, lover of the humanities, plants, and wildlife, and longtime friend to many, died at his home in Athens, GA on Friday, February 22nd after an extended illness. He was 74.
Dr. Newton's fields of study were phosphorous chemistry and X-ray crystallography, a method of determining the positions in space of the atoms of a molecule. He was an author of approximately 130 research publications.
Gary's interests outside of chemistry included a love of classical music and opera, which he developed as a child, later adding Pink Floyd, R.E.M, and other rock and roll bands to his musical taste. He often held season tickets to the opera and theater.
Natural life in many forms fascinated Gary whose riverside home was surrounded by acres of wild growth and who always kept animal companions, most recently his beloved dogs, Davy and Levi. From his extensive travels Gary would often return with photographs of the wildflowers he encountered.
Gary kept up a multi-decade research project into his family's genealogy, tracking the Newton name to pre-revolutionary America. He was an avid bridge player, a reader, a collector of depression glassware and crystal, a supporter of progressive politics, and an appreciator of wine and gourmet foods, though his most beloved restaurant was Red Lobster.
Melvin Gary Newton was born on February 18, 1939 on a farm near Millen, GA, the youngest child of Math and Alice Newton. At the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta he studied chemistry, earning a Ph.D in 1966. After a year of postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he came to the University of Georgia in Athens, joining the faculty of chemistry in 1967. In 1995 he joined the protein crystallography group headed by Professor B. C. Wang in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
He is predeceased by his parents, his brothers Hugh and Bob, his sister Frances Collins, and his niece Beth Newton Anderson. He is survived by his former wife Sue, nieces Melanie Williams, Patsy Collins, Julie Robertson, Nan Demsky, and Polly White, and nephews Matt Newton, Jr, Rodney Newton, Steve Newton, and Bill Collins and their families, and by sixteen great and great, great nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be held at Elam Baptist Church in Millen, GA on Sunday, March 17 at 3:00 PM. A memorial service will be held at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens on Thursday, March 28th at 5:30 PM.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Gary's memory to The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, GA.
Published in Athens Banner-Herald on Mar. 15, 2013