Former Civil Air Patrol national commander dies

Photo Courtesy: CAP
Photo Courtesy: CAP

MONTGOMERY, AL - Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Casaday of Birmingham, Ala., Civil Air Patrol's national commander in the late 1970s and a 1980 inductee into the CAP Hall of Honor, died Aug. 16 at the age of 92.

"He was one fine man," said Brig. Gen. Johnnie Boyd, CAP's national vice commander in 1978 during Casaday's tenure as national commander. "I am saddened to hear of his passing."

At the time of his death, Casaday was a Lifetime Member of CAP. Medically discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946, he joined the organization in 1948 and began a distinguished career with the U.S. Air Force auxiliary, serving in various leadership positions within CAP's Alabama Wing, including wing commander. In 1971, he was appointed Southeast Region commander and served in that position until 1973, when he was elected vice chairman of the National Board. He was elected national commander in September 1976 during CAP's annual conference in Philadelphia.

He served as CAP's national commander for three years, through September 1979, and was succeeded by Boyd. During Casaday's tenure, he worked to improve training for the organization's senior members. In his last "Civil Air Patrol News" column as national commander, he said, "One of the things that has been most gratifying to me has been our progressive development of a career training program that will help increase overall professionalism and job knowledge of our senior members."

One year later, in 1980, he was inducted into the CAP Hall of Honor. A bronze plaque bearing his likeness was dedicated and put on exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. To date, only 33 CAP volunteers have been inducted into the Hall of Honor.

"Tom was a good leader," said Boyd. "He was a lot of fun, a jolly guy, but he took CAP very seriously."

Boyd said Casaday led "through his example." He cited Casaday's insistence that senior members only wear their uniform to appropriate venues. "He would say, 'Don't wear it anywhere you wouldn't take your wife.' "

Casaday is survived by his wife of 66 years, Olive Elmore Casaday.

In addition to his induction into the CAP Hall of Honor, Casaday was inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, where he was specially recognized for his contributions to aerospace education. He later served as president of the Alabama Aero Club and of the Southern Museum of Flight. He was a lifetime member of the Daedalians, a fraternity of military pilots, and a member of the organization's "Founders Flight" at Maxwell AFB, Ala.

Among his other CAP decorations and awards were the CAP Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Meritorious Service Award, the Search and Rescue Service Ribbon, the Rescue "Find" Ribbon and the Frank G. Brewer Sr. Civil Air Patrol Memorial Aerospace Award.

Casaday was born in Birmingham in 1918 and grew up in Montgomery. He briefly studied at Bob Jones College in South Carolina before transferring to Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, where his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. He later furthered his business studies at Howard College, now Samford University, and the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Before joining CAP, Casaday served with the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946 as a B-24 pilot and flight control officer with the 2nd Air Force Training Command. A veteran multi-engine rated pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours, he used his own Cessna Skylane 182 for CAP search and rescue missions and other humanitarian operations.

In civilian life, he was president of ElCasa Enterprises Inc. and director of Union State Bank in Pell City, Ala. He was the developer of Pine Harbor Marina on Logan Martin Lake. He was later vice president of V.J. Elmore Stores Inc. in Birmingham.

Casaday was a founding member of Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and a member of the Birmingham Country Club and The Club. He was a 32nd order Mason and a member of Shades Valley Lodge No. 829, as well as a Shriner and a member of Zamora Temple.

He was preceded in death by his parents, the Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Cyrus Casaday Sr.; sisters, Olibel Carr and Jewell Darby; brother, Andrew Casaday; and a grandson, Russell R. Stutts III.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include daughter, Susan Casaday Stutts; son-in-law, Russell R. Stutts Jr.; two grandchildren, Katherine Stutts Comini and Jason Black Parnell; and two great-grandchildren, Thomas Campbell Comini and Olivia Susan Comini.

A memorial service will be held at Canterbury United Methodist Church at 2 p.m. Aug. 22, with visitation to follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Southern Museum of Flight, Civil Air Patrol at Maxwell AFB or to a charity of choice.