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James A. McCain

Educator. Born: December 8, 1907, York, South Carolina. Died: March 7, 1987, Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas.

James A. McCain was born on December 8, 1907, to parents Frank Pickering and Julia Allen McCain.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1926, a master’s degree from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in 1929, and a doctorate in education from Stanford University. 

He married Janet McLean Henry on December 18, 1930.

McCain worked at Colorado State University as assistant to the president and then as dean of student Personnel. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1942 to 1945, eventually becoming a lieutenant commander.

From 1945 to 1950 he was president of the University of Montana. In 1950 he left Montana and became the president of Kansas State University (KSU). During his time as president he was known for his open-door policy where he often met with students. One of his accomplishments was starting the Landon Lecture Series.

In 1975 McCain retired as president of KSU. Governor Robert Bennett appointed him secretary of the Kansas Department of Human Resources. He retired from that position in 1980.

McCain was a recipient of the Eisenhower Exchange Fellow Award in 1957, the Dwight D. Eisenhower People to People Medallion in 1969, Department of Army Certificate of Appreciation, Governor’s Award of Merit, Topeka Capital-Journal’s Kansan of the Year in 1973, National Governor’s Association Award for Distinguished Service in 1978, and the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas’ Distinguished Kansan in 1977.

He was a lecturer at Washburn University in Topeka and instructor for a graduate seminar at the University of Kansas’s Capitol Complex Program. He was chairman of the board of Kansas Good Roads Association, consultant to state universities in six other states and even four universities in Iran. He wrote a weekly column for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He received an honorary degree from Andra Pradesh State University in India.

He was involved in many organizations, such as the Academy for Educational Development and a member of the Menninger Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

He visited numerous universities in Europe through the Eisenhower Exchange fellowship. For the U.S. State Department he assisted with an international educational exchange program with German universities.

He died March 7, 1987 in Topeka, Kansas.

Entry: McCain, James A.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2016

Date Modified: July 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.