Dr. James C. McCroskey
Ed.D. Pennsylvania University 1966
Virtually every student of speech, speech communication, communication arts, or communication studies in the past 40+ years has heard the name, James C. McCroskey. He was an expert in communication apprehension, source credibility, organizational communication, instructional communication, and nonverbal communication, to name a few. He grew up in South Dakota, and taught speech and directed debate in high school. He was excellent at teaching debate and perhaps even better at debating. Jim had a deep voice of authority, so much so that when he said something, you believed it. You may change your mind later, but for that moment, you believed it. He knew dynamism and authority. That was the tough guy.
Despite his excellence in the public school classroom, his ambitions were higher.
Leaving his native South Dakota, Jim went to the Pennsylvania State University for his doctorate. There he studied with some of the most notable scholars of the day, including Carroll Arnold and Harold Zelko. From Pennsylvania, he moved his family around from place to place: Michigan, Hawaii, Virginia, and Illinois, before settling in West Virginia.
According to my research and the research of others, Jim became the most published person in the discipline, not just in his lifetime, but also since 1915- - and in disciplinary terms, ever. His articles are in virtually every journal in the discipline, and he edited many of them as well.
But as great as Jim was as a scholar, he was even better as a teacher. His students and former students teach McCroskey throughout the world. His discipline about quantitative research was sometimes almost scary. He was a master, a technician, and a master technician.
I called him as a master teacher and a research manager. No one could graduate from West Virginia without becoming excellent at quantitative research.
But those who knew Jim, and I like to think I am one of them, knew a man who continued to search for answers. I discovered this after Jim and Virginia [Peck Richmond] moved to Birmingham to teach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My regular lunches with Jim at the Margaritaville Mexican Restaurant in Hoover, Alabama, were almost sequenced. Usually they started with sports talk. He loved the West Virginia Mountaineers. So many years WVU got close to a national championship run, and so often Jim was disappointed when they fell short. But Jim came back with them the next year.
Then we talked about our good ole days. He talked about his work with the Eastern Communication Association and the World Communication Association. He talked about his discussions in ICA about the development of the journal, Human Communication Research. He developed, with Mark Knapp, a real interpersonal textbook. He discussed his teaching in Thailand and other countries. Finally, though, he would say, "Mark, where do we need to go now?" Those conversations were just a few weeks ago.
Jim not only wanted to influence the field, he DID influence the field.
As good as his teaching was, though, Jim's strength was being a friend. When we met for the first time at an Eastern Convention, he had no reason to befriend this young upstart who taught in Mississippi. But he did, and he came to Mississippi twice just as I later went to West Virginia twice. His advice was beneficial not only to me, but to hundreds of others of his friends. And the servers at the Margaritaville were his friends. They didn't know the scholar Jim McCroskey or the teacher, Jim McCroskey, but they knew we were friends who went there often and had lunch for a couple of hours.
I miss him. I appreciate his being my friend. I know that whatever great place he is in now, he is organizing them to become more quantitative, "being scientific" as he called it. They will be better for his being there too.
Submitted by Dr. Mark Hickson