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Commissioner James Whitfield, January 12, 1926–December 6, 2016

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Jim WhitfieldJim Whitfield (Photo by The American Legion)The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission has received the sad news of the recent passing of our Commissioner James Whitfield. He was 90 years old.

The Centennial Commission Chair, Robert Dalessandro, expressed the sorrow felt by the entire Commission and staff. "Jim was a true gentleman and friend. We will all miss him. He will long be remembered for his dedication and work on behalf of veterans, and the World War One generation."

Fellow Commissioner Jerry Hester added "I will treasure his devotion and friendship".

James Seymour “Jim” Whitfield was born on January 12, 1926 in Warrensburg, Missouri, the son of William Henry “Dub” and Mary Virginia (Asbury) Whitfield. On January 3, 1957, he and Ruby Virginia Raker were united in marriage in Warrensburg. She preceded him in death on March 12, 1999. On July 19, 2003, he and Kathryn Henry were married in Louisiana, MO. She preceded him in death on March 26, 2013.

During World War Two, Whitfield served in the U.S. Navy, aboard warships in the Far Pacific, North Atlantic, and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. He was a graduate of Central Missouri State University, with a B.S. Degree in Business Administration, and he served as Student Body President. In his senior year he received the George Charno Citizenship Award, in part for his work as the school's Veterans Affairs Coordinator. Whitfield did post-graduate study at University of Colorado and Iowa University.

WhitfieldJim WhitfieldWhitfield became active in veterans affairs after his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1947. He was a Life Member of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars in the United States, and BPO Elks, all of Warrensburg, Missouri. He also started the Warrensburg Jaycees, and was its first president. Whitfield served as the first chairman of the Missouri Veterans Commission, and served a total of 10 years on the Commission. During his tenure, the Missouri State Veterans Home system of seven homes, and the State Veterans Cemetery system, were established.

Whitfield served the American Legion Boys State of Missouri in key roles over four decades, including Secretary-Treasurer, City Counselor, and Dean of Counselors, Whitfield was instrumental in helping the Missouri Boys State program grow into a youth leadership program of national prominence. He was inducted into the Missouri Boys State Hall of Fame in 1988.

Whitfield was an active member of the American Legion for 70 years. Notably, he served as the Executive Director, American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, IN.

Following his term at the American Legion National Headquarters, Whitfield was Administrative Manager and Convention Director for the North American Equipment Dealers Association with offices in St. Louis County, Missouri. Jim also served as the western area coordinator for the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program of the Missouri National Guard until his death. He was an avid season ticket holder for the Missouri Mavericks hockey team and a big Cardinals fan.

Whitfield VideoJim Whitfield supporting building the national World War One Memorial in Washington, DC.Whitfield was appointed Commissioner to the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission in 2013 by the American Legion. He was actively involved in the Centennial Commission efforts to create public outreach programs, and to build the National World War One Memorial in Washington DC.

Jim is survived by his sister, Shirly Brockman, of Warrensburg; two nephews, Scott Dunham and wife, Carol, of Warrensburg and Wayne Raker and wife, Kathy, of Valrico, FL; three nieces, Ann Shideler and husband, John, of Wheatland, Kit Raker Gudde and husband, Lynn, of Chilhowee, and Clayton Raker Hasser, of Overland Park; a sister-in-law, Wilma Flawsburg and friend, Al Stewart, of Independence; and good friend, Brenda Brown, of Lee’s Summit. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Funeral services will be held Monday, December 12, 2016 at 10 AM at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg with R. Todd Simpson officiating. Interment will follow in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville with full military honors by the Warrensburg American Legion Post 131, Mike’s National Guard Team, and the Patriot Guard Riders.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Phi Sigma Kappa Foundation, the American Legion Missouri Boys State Memorial Trust, or the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery Assistance League.

Read a long memorial and stories about Jim Whitfield on the 1973 Warrensburg High School Reunion blog here.