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.
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. 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.
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 is survived by his wife of 66 years, Olive Elmore Casaday, 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.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 60,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and has been credited by the AFRCC with saving more than 100 lives this fiscal year. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 25,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 68 years. For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com.