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Throwback Thursday: James Sill: SWOSU Professor, Protector, Public Service Director

As a 17-year veteran of the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Language Arts Department and a member of the United States Armed Forces, Dr. James Sill didn't mind hard work, including digging his own backyard fallout shelter.

Sill came to SWOSU in 1960.  Throughout his nearly two decades on the faculty, he taught English Composition, Speech, Debate, Philosophy, Ethics, Old Testament Survey and New Testament Literature, and for five years he was Director of Forensics.

Sill was also an Army Reservist.

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was still raging with no end in sight in the early 1960s, and Americans throughout the country, including Weatherford and western Oklahoma, prepared to survive a Soviet nuclear attack.

The October 13, 1964, edition of SWOSU's student newspaper, The Southwestern, carried a story about the eight campus fallout shelters that had just been stocked with food and medical supplies provided by the federal government to accommodate more than 2,000 people for up to two weeks after a nuclear attack.

Two months later, Sill was featured in the Dec. 8 edition of The Southwestern because he was digging a dual-purpose fallout and storm shelter in the back yard of his Weatherford home. 

According to the story, Sill, then a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, sought the protection that the shelter would provide and thought that digging it would also be a great way for him to get some exercise.

Sill spent his summers then on the faculty at the Army Chaplain School in Fort Hamilton, NY. He had served as chaplain with the Third Air Force during World War II in the 1940s and with the Army during the Korean War in the 1950s.

Later in the 1960s, Sill added to his teaching duties by serving as SWOSU's Director of Public Service. In this capacity, he traveled the state and region speaking to educational and civic groups on behalf of SWOSU—130 times in 1967 alone.  Sill also arranged speaking appointments for other SWOSU faculty members, and he hosted campus visitors.

Sill retired in 1977, but he returned to campus as SWOSU's 1983 commencement speaker.

An educator, public service director, chaplain and Army Reservist, SWOSU professor James Sill wore many hats.  And he wasn't afraid to operate the working end of a shovel when he needed to.