J. Joseph Ferguson
James Joe Ferguson, 39, was director of geography education outreach at the National Geographic Society and a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77, accompanying three DC public school teachers and three students on a National Geographic-sponsored field trip to the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, California.
Ferguson, who was known by his middle name, lived on Capitol Hill with Winston, his wire-haired fox terrier. He grew up in Durant, Mississippi, where his mother still lives, and earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
He was lured away from a master’s program by an internship offer at National Geographic in Washington. He later accepted a permanent job and worked there for 14 years.
His mother, Barbara Harrell, said he was interested in helping children learn about geography. When he bought Christmas presents for his brother’s son and daughter, Harrell said, he never bought toys. He bought geography books or a puzzle of the United States.
Harrell teased Ferguson that his middle name should have been “Go” because he loved to travel and could pack in 20 minutes. He had just finished making reservations for a Thanksgiving trip to London with his mother. During the Easter holiday the two traveled to the Bahamas.
“He and I were very, very good friends,” Harrell said. “Work and traveling was his life – and his family. Every chance he got, he came home just to get some R&R, if nothing else. He and his dog would come.”
When Ferguson took morning flights, he often asked his mother to give him a wake-up call. On Tuesday, she did just that, at 4:30 a.m.
“He said, ‘I’ll call you when I get to California. Have a good day.’