Jim Casey – The Inspiration
by Greg Niemann
The Modest Jim Casey
I personally noted an incident in 1973 that supports the modesty of Jim Casey and his determination to recognize others. The UPS Foundation had donated funds to restore the small park and pergola at Seattle’s Pioneer Square, near the birthplace of UPS. In gratitude, Seattle rolled out the red carpet for the visiting UPS Board of Directors and held a gala celebration with the mayor, other dignitaries, and the media present.
One of my duties in setting up the evening reception room was to ensure that there would be a television available so the board members could see the daytime presentation on the evening news. This was 1973 so I had to find one and wheel it in. I had also found out what stations were covering the event and the times.
When I told Jim Casey that he would be on the 6 p.m. news, I was surprised to see him so giddy with excitement. He quickly called his sister Marguerite who lived in Seattle so that she might watch.
A hush fell over the room as the news began. Jim, watching intently, suddenly whispered, “I sure hope they credit all the people who made this possible. It couldn’t have been done without all the people at UPS.”
The coverage attributed the gift to all of the employees at UPS and Jim felt good. He beamed with pride. I detected it wasn’t for himself, but for his company and its people he loved so much.
The next morning, a Saturday, I wanted to give back to Jim a heavy pergola cornerstone that was presented to him and somehow had spent the night in my hotel room.
I caught up with him as the board was gathering for their quarterly meeting. “Oh, that’s not for me,” he said. “That belongs to all UPS employees. Leave it here, in Seattle. Give it to our Washington district people to safeguard.”
I did, and it now rests on Jim’s first desk among other memorabilia in the Washington district lobby.
The Inspirational Jim Casey
I personally saw what an inspiration Jim Casey could be. In 1973 the UPS Board of Directors met in the Pacific Northwest. As Jim and the other board members toured the new Portland offices, I followed, photographing the event for our publications.
Jim entered a conference room where about a dozen people were being trained as supervisors. He shook hands around the table and then said, “It’s good to see so many young people taking an active part in the management of our business. You know, youth has always been important to us. In fact, when we celebrated our 20'th anniversary, only one of us was over 40 years old. That was Charlie Soderstrom and we used to tease him about that.”
I marveled again at how Jim noticed something, in this case, youth,
and then proceeded to say something inspirational about it.
The Farsighted Jim Casey
I remember one example of Jim’s farsightedness. In the early 1970s the UPS Board of Directors and a group of top management people were on a train as it pulled into Seattle, Washington. The huge Kingdome was under construction near the Seattle train station and I noticed Jim Casey looking out the window.
Others were impressed by its size, etc. but Jim calmly said, “Where are the people going to park?”
I paused to consider the remark and realized that it was a congested part of town. His hasty observation was prophetic. It wasn’t long before the lack of parking in the area became a major issue. The Kingdome was later torn down, its life shortened by short-sighted planners.
An Emotional Jim Casey
I’ll never forget one emotional incident. In 1979, I was working liaison with a Los Angeles hotel and the UPS Board of Directors who were holding their quarterly meeting there. I was in the hallway when the meeting ended and the board members emerged.
Jim came out with tears in his eyes; he hugged a board member and choked with emotion, said, “It’s a sad day for all of us.”
“Ohmygosh,” I thought. “What happened in there? Did we go broke or something?” No. I quickly learned that two members of the Board had announced their impending retirements. Jim, 92 years old, was caught up in the sentiment of losing two valued colleagues.
What a man, I thought, as I watched him walk slowly down the hallway. It was the last time I ever saw him, but just knowing him made my life better.