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James Reagan Odom

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February 3 James Odom.jpg

Services for James Reagan Odom, 91, will be at 3:00 p.m., Monday, February 4, 2013, at Trinity United Methodist Church., officiated by special friend and pastor, Rev. Brian Mercer. Burial will follow at Greenwood Cemetery with Military Honors under the direction of Kilpatrick Funeral Home of Ruston.

Reagan was born in Union Parish on March 13, 1921, to Jesse Reagan and Lydia Boulware Odom. He entered into rest on Saturday, February 2, 2013. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 61 years, Shirley Sherman Odom, and his parents.

Reagan was a faithful Christian who lived his life with honesty, integrity, compassion, loyalty, and love. He had an attention to detail and planning like no other, and a mind that rarely forgot even the smallest detail. He carried his trademark wit and wisdom with him through life and shared it with his family and friends into his final days. Reagan strongly believed in taking every opportunity in life to help someone and encouraged others to do so “no matter how odd it may seem.” He was a member of the Greatest Generation and embodied all of the wonderful qualities and outstanding characteristics that come with that honor. He had a deep love for his country, the United States Navy, and flying airplanes of all kinds.

The “flying bug” first bit him during his days at Eastland Elementary School in Ruston, which was located near the "makeshift" airport in a pasture on the south end of Farmerville St. He and his fellow classmates took great joy in watching the planes land. Reagan took his first ride in an airplane as a child in 1929. His love for flying took him to the Civil Pilot Training Program in Arcadia in 1941, the U.S. Navy Aviation Cadet Training Program in New Orleans and Pensacola in 1942, and around the world as a Navy Ace pilot during World War II.

During the war, from 1942-44, Reagan served as a flight instructor in Pensacola, FL. This was followed by Operational Training in Jacksonville, FL, and flying in the Scouting Observation Service Unit One at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He was stationed on the USS California BB 44 from 1944-45. While aboard the California, he participated in the invasion of Leyte Island in the Philippines, Battle of Surigao Strait, Invasion of Luzon in the Philippines, Invasion of Okinawa, as well as an operation in the China Sea and the occupation of Japan. After the occupation of Japan, Reagan and the crew of the USS California departed for Philadelphia, PA. Because the ship was too wide to go through the Panama Canal, they were forced to travel around the world via Singapore, Colombo, Ceylon, and Capetown, South Africa.

What Reagan called his “great adventure” in the U.S. Navy ended on January 1, 1946, when he was moved to inactive duty. He was happy to return home to his family in Ruston. Reagan joined the family business of T.L. James and Co. as their full-time pilot and the first corporate pilot to fly from the Ruston Airport. He retired from T.L. James & Co. in 1986 after forty-two years, twenty of which he spent as their pilot.

After his active duty service in the Navy ended in 1946, Reagan proudly served in the U. S. Naval Reserves until his retirement in 1964 as Lt. Commander of Auxiliary Air Unite Squadron 823 in Shreveport.

He was a long-time member of Trinity United Methodist Church, charter member of The Caney Lake Sams RV Club, and loyal member of The Monday Morning Burger King Coffee Club, The Magnolia Corner Chicken and Dumpling Gang, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars. In his earlier years, Reagan served on the board of directors, and as president, of the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Sunday School Superintendent at Trinity United Methodist Church, and president of Ruston Country Club. He was also very active in Ruston Dixie Baseball where he served as president.

One of the highlights of his later years was participating in the Louisiana Honor Flight. Reagan travelled with fellow World War II veterans and his two daughters to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial.

Although Reagan took his final flight from the old Ruston Airport in 1965, the love of flying remained with him all of his days. He considered it a tremendous honor to have served God and his country as a World War II Navy pilot, and he did so with great pride. However, Reagan was quick to say that the love he had for the military and flying paled in comparison to the love he had for his family.

Reagan is survived by his daughters, Judy Graham and husband Ronny of Choudrant, and Donna Lynn Canterbury and husband Barry of Simsboro; son Reagan S. Odom and wife Julie of Mobile, AL; grandchildren Clint Graham and wife Kim, Mark Graham and wife Julie, Dawn Graham DeForest and husband Neal, Brian Canterbury and wife Ginny, Jennifer Canterbury Fryer and husband Joshua, Natalie Odom Corley and husband Chris, Lindsey Odom Sterling and husband David; great-grandchildren Taylor, Mary Hollis and Garrett Graham; Zoe and Mia Graham; Graham, Cayden & Chelsea DeForest; Ginger Johnson and Brice Canterbury.
Pallbearers will be Clint Graham, Mark Graham, Brian Canterbury, Garrett Graham, Neal DeForest, and Joshua Fryer. Honorary pallbearers will be Larry Bond, Keith Canterbury, Fletcher Tompkins, and members of the Magnolia Corner Chicken and Dumplings Gang, the Monday Morning Burger King Coffee Club and The Caney Lake Sams RV Club.
The family will receive friends on Monday, February 4, from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Memorials may be made to Trinity United Methodist Church or the Methodist Children’s Home.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at

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