Olson was born to James Francis and Ruth Ann Peck Olson on February 18, 1942 in Twin Falls, Idaho. He received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Idaho in 1965 and his Ph.D. in Entomology in 1971 from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
He worked with the Department for 37 years as a Professor and medical entomologist where he taught several entomology courses and researched mosquitoes and other insects related to medical entomology.He also served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army Chemical Corps.
Some of the projects Olson has worked on included the study of the genetics of Culex salinarius, the species diversity and biology of mosquito populations associating with small, intra-urban wetland sites and the interaction between Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus populations in Central Texas urban areas. Olson also worked on projects involoving the species composition of natural arthropod predator populations associated with Cx. salinarius larval populations in their coastal upland marsh over-summering sites along with studying the association of blow fly species with carrion beetles. .
Olson routinely taught three courses, Medical Entomology (ENTO 423), Forensic Entomology and Lab (ENTO 431-432), and Medical and Veterinary Entomology (ENTO 618). Olson also possessed a passion for his graduate students to succeed in all their endeavors. He was an influential advocate and mentor but especially a friend to his students.
He also has authored or co-authored over 100 scientific journals publications and abstracts in his 30-plus year career with the university
“Jimmy Olson was a good friend and valuable colleague in this department,” said Dr. Brad Vinson. “He was a help to me on a number of occasions. He will be missed.”
Beaumont center director Dr. Ted Wilson said that Olson was a great colleague and friend.
“I learned to admire Jimmy for his forth-right views, honesty, deep love for students and exceptionally knowledge of medical entomology,” he said. He was one in a million and will be dearly missed as both a friend and colleague.”
“Dr. Olson was a great teacher, mentor, boss, and most of all friend. He was one of the rare people who would take the time to build a relationship with you. He always went that extra mile to make sure that you felt like you were part of his extended family,” said. Dr. Mark Johnsen, a former grad student of Olson’s. “He was a leader in his field and directly influenced mosquito control in the state of Texas through his graduate and undergraduate students, and through his willingness to lend his support and experience to anyone in need. Dr. Olson will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who have had the fortune to meet him.”
Senior Academic Advisor Rebecca Hapes remembered most was Olson’s enthusiasm and commitment to students’ success.
“Dr. Olson was an enthusiastic professor, beloved by many students. He was deeply passionate and committed to student success,” Hapes said. “Every time I speak to students about the history of the forensics program in our department, I will think of him. He has left a wonderful educational legacy that will span much further than the Department of Entomology.”
He is survived by his children Ashley and wife Faith Alexander of Clinton Tennessee; Robin and husband Robert Von Heeder of Houston, Texas; Teri and husband Mike Belyeu of Giddings, Texas; Kristine and husband Chris Boehm of Florence, Montana; Jason and wife Donna Alexander of Snook, Texas; Christopher and wife Maria Olson of Houston, Texas, Megan Olson and Bobby Collins of Houston, Texas; his sister JoAnn Olson Robbins of Buhl, Idaho, numerous grandchildren and other relatives.