Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Jim's History

Gone But Not Forgotten

ShivelySm.jpg Captain James R. Shively, United States Air Force Academy Class of 1964, died of prostate cancer in Spokane, WA on February 18, 2006.

If we are exceptionally fortunate in our lifetime, we may be blessed by knowing a person of uncommon valor and grace. James R. Shively was such a man. His life story confirms the talents and accomplishments of an individual of heroic stature. Ever so modest, Jim always dismissed efforts to extend to him even the humblest of tributes. A life so well lived, so fruitful and so inspiring demands, however, a richer accounting.

Born in Wheeler City, TX on March 23, 1942, Jim was raised in Spokane, WA from age five. He graduated with honors from West Valley High School in 1960 and accepted U.S. Senator Henry Jackson's appointment to the Air Force Academy. The rigors of the training regimen at the Blue Zoo led Jim to ponder withdrawal. Instead, after reflection and refocus, he applied himself with renewed vigor and graduated in the upper ranks of his class. His superior scholarship merited entry to Georgetown University where he received a Master's Degree in International Relations.

As the Vietnam War was escalating, the Air Force selected 2nd Lieutenant Shively for pilot training at Williams AFB, AZ in 1965 and combat crew training in the F105D at Nellis AFB, NV thereafter. In December 1966, he was assigned to the 357 Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli, Thailand. On his 69th mission, while doggedly holding to his pre-set bombing pattern over Hanoi in spite of intense anti-aircraft fire, his F-105 suffered a shattering hit and he was forced to eject. He landed in a rice paddy and was quickly captured by waiting enemy ground forces.

Shively would courageously endure nearly six years of barbaric captivity in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” His cell consisted of a tiny, hot, rat-infested room with no shower and only a wooden bucket for disposal of his bodily wastes. For more than 2,000 days, this habitat and an unchanging diet of water, rice, and diluted pumpkin soup for half the year and water, rice, and diluted spinach soup for the other half were his daily lot. In the initial stages of confinement he suffered brutal beating and torture, later extreme deprivations and abuse would become commonplace. The harsh character-strengthening anvil of his POW experience was, however, to forge a far weightier gold. The emaciated man who emerged from his cell was even more steeled than the brave young pilot who entered. A White House reception, and a hero's welcome paid merited recognition to this Silver Star recipient's distinguished military service to his beloved nation.

After his discharge from service in June 1974, Shively graduated from Gonzaga Law School and began private practice in 1977. A group of Washington state Democratic leaders recruited him to run for office. The goal was a U.S. Senate seat, but Jim declined. His soul mate, Nancy. and beloved daughters Amy, Jane, Laura, and Nikki would not be denied his presence, attention, guidance and love for the remainder of his bountiful life.

Within a few years, he was asked to join the Eastern Washington U.S. Attorney's Office and would over a 20-year career rise to the position of senior supervisor overseeing both the criminal and civil divisions. He served one year as interim U.S. Attorney while President Bush's appointee awaited Senate confirmation in 2001. Shively was a selfless volunteer mentor to numerous local high school and Gonzaga University students and a regular Gonzaga political science class guest speaker. He literally and figuratively personified the noble code of “Duty, Honor, Country” and personified the USAF Academy's core values of “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” Captain James R. Shively was a precious gift in his family, friends, community and nation. He was a patriot in the finest sense of the word.

Shively's POW release date was 2/18/73. Thirty-three years later, to the very day, this priceless patriot would be freed from the prison of his cancerous body. Let us reflect on his exceptional life and be profoundly grateful.

(Steve Hawk, Jim's son-in -law, and Jerrv Hughes. friend and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Gonzaga University, Gone But Not Forgotten, Checkpoints, June 2006)
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