Dr. James Garland Caster, Jr. answered the final call, full of years and honors, and went to join his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Church Triumphant in the Heavenly Kingdom of God on the 19th July 2022.
Dr. Caster was a beloved father, husband, grandfather, citizen soldier, public servant, lawyer, professional educator, author, speaker, and ardent American patriot. He was born on April 29, 1928, to James Garland Caster, Sr., and Willie Carl (Bullard) Caster in El Reno, Oklahoma, where his parents saw a doctor for the birth. James Sr. was a barber and Willie was a seamstress and homemaker residing in Carnegie, Oklahoma.
Caster grew up at Carnegie during the Great Depression. He attended Carnegie Public Schools, worked as a newspaper boy, a shoe shiner in his father’s barbershop, and during World War II as a part-time movie projectionist because the men were in the service. He spent most of the 1944-45 school year in Midwest City as chief projectionist at the Skytrain Theater. Returning to Carnegie for his senior year, Caster played trumpet in the high school orchestra, wrote the high school news and sports section for the Carnegie Herald, under the J. Garland Caster line, and played a role in the senior class play.
Caster graduated from Carnegie High School’s class of 1946. At the start, he delivered the class’s farewell speech and performed a spirited rendition of Chopin’s “Polonaise militaire” on the piano. To be valedictorian, young Jim Caster had to win a tough four-year academic contest with a most worthy rival. He would relish the memory of these two notable accomplishments for the rest of his life.
Most of Caster’s adult life was happily spent in various academic pursuits. He earned four college degrees: a bachelor’s degree in history and a doctorate in law from OU, a bachelor’s degree in geology from Oklahoma City University, and a doctorate. in history and political science from the University of New Mexico. From 1946 to 1956, with a two-year break for military service during the Korean War, he attended law school and OU graduate school. He worked as a projectionist in Norman theatres, was active in campus politics as a student senator for 3½ years. years, president of the OU History Club, member of the OU American Legion post, and active in the Young Democratic League. He played in the UO Marching Band and the ROTC Band and fondly remembers the banquet with big band leader Harry James, the great trumpeter. In 1958, as president of the Young Democrats of the 5th District, he participated in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the advent of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, an event attended by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and former President Harry Truman . An ardent OU football fan since age 11, throughout his life, Caster was thrilled when the Big Reds triumphed and died a bit when they fell. He proudly shook hands with coaches Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops.
After fulfilling all the requirements except for the doctoral thesis. in history and political science at the University of New Mexico, Caster joined the history faculty at Oklahoma City University in 1964. He had five happy years at OCU, the last two as department chairman. He has taught courses in United States history and American government, organized and sponsored the OCU History Club, sponsored the OCU Chapter of the Order of Kappa Alpha, and established several scholarships for students. He was richly blessed to be associated with a brilliant group of students who did superbly on the national graduate history exam. First among this distinguished group was Vincent Marmorale of Brooklyn, NY, who became a lifelong friend and confidant.
In 1969 Caster completed his doctoral dissertation under the guidance of eminent scholar Dr. Donald C. Cutter and was awarded the Ph.D. diploma. Central State College—later the University of Central Oklahoma—quickly made him a financial offer he couldn’t refuse, and he joined the political science faculty there. The political science department at UCO proved to be the perfect situation for him to nurture his interests and develop his professional career. He became closely associated with the longtime president, Professor Leroy Crozier.
Over the years, he was sometimes asked to fill the role of eulogy at the funerals of friends and associates. He had the touch and could artfully sum up the essential features of a remarkable life into a succinct and meaningful narrative. Everyone was different and he always worked diligently to make things perfect for the deceased and the family.
He has taught courses on US National Government, US Constitutional Law, several other legal topics, and occasionally offered a seminar titled Espionage and Military Intelligence in the Modern State. Additionally, for two decades he taught the military history course for UCO ROTC programs. Caster headed the Office of Government Services which helped small towns codify their municipal ordinances and brought notable national speakers to UCO. He conducted political polls for state legislators and political candidates and oversaw student internships with state agencies. As UCO’s pre-law advisor, he was very active in the process of integrating students into state law schools. He sponsored the Pre-Law Club, UCO Young Democrats and for 3 years the 300 strong Nigerian Students Union. He has published over two dozen articles in scholarly journals and an instructor’s manual for a well-known US government manual. He retired in 1992 at the rank of full professor.
After his retirement, he was honored with a reception by the State Senate and allowed to address the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Governor David Walters proclaimed a statewide Dr. James G. Caster Day.
After retiring from UCO, Caster continued to teach part-time (auxiliary) at OSU-OKC and Redlands Community College. He taught until he was 85 and helped secure pay raises for all assistant instructors at both institutions.
Outside the cloistered halls of the university, Dr. Caster built a solid record of public service in his beloved state earlier by serving on five different state boards and committees appointed by elected officials from both political parties. He started as secretary of the state Legislative Ethics Commission; served for 8½ years on the Public Employee Relations Council, 5 years as Chairman; served one term on the Oklahoma State Veterans Commission; worked for several years on the State Capitol Centennial Celebration Committee; and served as historical advisor to the Oklahoma State Civil War Centennial Commission.
Caster was an enthusiastic joiner and graciously devoted much time and effort to organizations he considered worthy of support. For 43 years he was editor and historian of the Oklahoma City Civil War Roundtable. From 1973 to 2015, he led the UCO Conclave of the Ancient and Beneficent Order of the Red Red Rose. A longtime dedicated member of Operation Oklahoma American Legion Boys State, he served as program director from 1988 to 1998, and with hard work and help from many staff, he was rightly proud that the number registrations increased from 525 at the start. at 815 at the end and that two Boys Nation presidents came from Oklahoma Boys State during the period.
James was married to three remarkable women. They were: Edna Joyce Norris (married 1958 – died 1992); Sherry Darlene Chlouber, of Carnegie (married 1995 – died 2000); and his surviving wife, Phyllis A. Springer, whom he married in 2002. He adopted three children, all of whom survive him. They are: Caroline Jeanne Harwood of Edmond; Victoria Anne Snider of Antlers; and James William Smith of Oklahoma City.
Caster was a member of several organizations and received numerous honors and awards. Of the latter, he had particularly cherished three: his nomination as editor-historian emeritus by the OKC’s Roundtable on the Civil War; the establishment of the annual Dr. James G. Caster Scholarship awarded to the outstanding pre-law student by the Department of Political Science at the University of Central Oklahoma; and the establishment of the Annual Dr. James G. Caster Civil War History Symposium by Randall University in Moore, OK by Professor Steve Byas.
Those wishing to view may do so from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 28 at the Smith & Kernke N. May Avenue Funeral Home. Services will be held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Friday, July 29 at 2:00 p.m., with a reception beginning at 12:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in memory of Dr. James G. Caster be made to St. Luke’s United Methodist Foundation, 222 NW 15th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73103-3598.
Posted July 26, 2022
Posted in The Oklahoman