In Memoriam: James 'Jim' Cason, '76

James "Jim" Edwin Cason '76, a prominent official in the departments of the Interior and Agriculture during the Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump administrations, died Oct. 7, 2021, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at the age of 67.

He was born in Athens, Texas, to family of itinerant farm laborers, picking crops from Texas to Oregon. 

"As a member of a migrant farm family who traveled the fruit and vegetable circuit of the West Coast, my life and that of my parents has centered around agriculture and ranching. Harvesting crops was the predominate activity of our family for a number of years," Cason told a Senate committee in 1989.

He graduated from Hood River Valley High School in 1972 with an athletic scholarship to Pacific University. As a scholar-athlete at Pacific, he surpassed expectations in his studies, track and field, and football, graduating magna cum laude in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

After graduation, Jim worked internationally, managing the construction of a large development project on the Caspian Sea in Iran. That work ended dramatically when he and his colleagues were forced to flee the country when the Iranian government was overthrown. Cason was among the last Americans to safely exit Iran after the revolution.

He joined the Reagan Administration in 1982 when he began working at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Over the course of his 30-year career, he served in a variety of federal agency management positions. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he managed the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. At the Interior Department, he rose through the ranks of the Bureau of Land Management, becoming acting assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, and acting assistant secretary for Policy Management and Budget. He was associate deputy secretary of the Interior Department in the George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump administrations.

"Jim was one of the last of the greats to serve at DOI," former Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani told E&E News, a publication that covers energy policy. "He possessed a rare combination of virtues — granular understanding of internal DOI operations, policy brilliance and an extraordinary work ethic."

He was preceded in death by his father James Alton Cason and his sister Valera Ann Cason. He is survived by two sons, Joshua James Cason and Connor Mackenzie Cason; their mother, Susan Hoven Cason; his mother, Joan Ann Cason; and by his siblings, John Thomas Cason (Patricia), Jean Marie Cason (Wayne Ralph) and Roy Earl Cason (Jolene).

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 12 at Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Va. A link to the live streamed service will added to this obituary at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests charitable donations In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to a memorial scholarship being established in James's honor at Pacific University. To support this fund, please visit, and indicate a tribute/memorial for "James Cason." For more information, contact Orhan Belding in Pacific's Development Department.

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021