JAMES KAYS

Nomination for the Army Sports Hall of Fame

JAMES L. KAYS
BRIGADIER GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY
1941 – 2021
As a Quarterback, Coach and Officer Representative, Jim gave 26 years to 150 / Lightweight / Sprint Football. Jim has always given his time to others and in creating and resolving issues and problems. In the years since 1958, I have never know Jim to ask for anything in response to his help. You, You are the only ones he ever asked. He asked you to give. To give all that you have to the Game he loved. For the two Plebes Teams he coached against the Hive and Goat Teams, Jim created the Tight Butt Formation, bring linemen in tight to prevent the much larger Upper Class men from breaking into the backfield. During the 19 years, even when Jim was Department Head of the Systems Engineering Department he created, there were two constants. Col. Kays on the sideline and winning Football.

Jeane was at the Fort Bragg Officers Club Pool on July 3, 1961, when Jimmy met the love of his life. Jimmy was to depend on Jeane for the next 59 years. He graduated 9th in his Classes as an Artillery Officer on June 6, 1962. Just prior to Graduation, Jim stood before an Officers Board to determine his fitness for Commissioning. His medical record implied the knee injury he sustained in the last game of the 1960 season would prevent active duty. Jim stated he had quarterbacked the 150s in the last game of the 1961 season without difficulty and had guided the Team to the win. He further stated that he would attend and graduate from both Ranger and Airborne Schools. Jeane and Jimmy were married on June 10th.

Jim completed Airborne training without difficulty, but the knee which he blew out required several attempts to complete Ranger School. In 1964 the Ranger Tab was sown on. The first assignment with the 82d was shortened when Jim Volunteered for Military Assistance Command Vietnam, receiving the Bronze Star, Commendation Medal with V and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Upon his return he was assigned to USATC, Fort Campbell; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Math. Dept. USMA; back to the Far East with an Arty Bn in Korea; CGSC; ODCSOPS Army General Staff; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Math. Dept. USMA; Director, Operations Research Center, Office of the Dean, USMA where Jim created The Systems Engineering Department, becoming the Department Head. Jim Retired in 1998.

Jim accepted a position as the Mathematics Department Head, Auburn University, Montgomery.
Jim was to created one more Systems Engineering Department as Dean, Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Naval Post Graduate School.

As a Professor in the Academy Math Department, Jim became an Assistant Coach with the 150s. His appointment to Plebe Coach in 1970, resulted in those two teams contributing to a record of 29 & 1, beating Navy each year.

Jim returned to West Point as an Associate Professor in 1978. In 1987 Jim began the process of creating the Systems Engineering Department. He was to become the Head, of the Department and the Director, USMA Operations Research Center.

There are 3 points of interest relating to USMA Systems Engineering Department. Jim would visit the Army Staff searching for projects for his Cadets. One such one was the Cadet proposal presented to the Army Staff of an all terrain wheeled vehicle similiar to the Humvee. The Army’s Armored Divisions had great success with the Half Track used by the Armored Rifle Battalions during World War II. The Systems Engineering Department was compensated by the Army for Cadet Research, until the Dean became aware of compensation and accepted it for all Departments.

Even more significant was the first Accreditation by the Board for Engineering and Technology. The lead evaluator was Dr. Yaco Y. Haime. During the presentation to the Staff and Faculty Dr. Haime indicated that he evaluated programs both in the US and abroad. He went on to say that the Academy’s Systems Engineering Program was the finest he had ever evaluated.

The 5 year requirement for Instructors impacted an Officer’s Career. Jim spoke to the Dean. He received a commitment by Branch to release an officer once his replacement was in. Jim discussed with at least one University Department Head to provide an accelerated program. Jim’s agreement to release officers early, allowed the length to approach 3.5 years. The Cadets got the Officers Jim wanted.

Jim rejoined the 150s becoming the Officer Responsible. For 19 years Jim provided continuity for the program, specifically Head Coaches, Larry Henley, (1980-81), Bob Knapp (1982-84), Tim Mingey (1984-86) and Bob Thompson (1986-1998); Jim recruited the assistant coaches from the Academic and Tactical Departments. Many of these assistant coaches were former Army 150 players who sustained and reinforced the 150 / Lightweight /Sprint Culture – dedication to excellence, a winning tradition, and commitment to team. These assistant coaches were the reasons the Army 150 / Lightweight Football Program was one of the most successful at the Academy. The teams during that period won over 80% of their games, won league championships, beat Navy regularly and won several bowl games. The most significant accomplishment of these teams was that they consistently won the Academy’s award to the athletic team with the best combined performance in all areas of cadet development — academics, military aptitude and athletics.

The Kays Trophy, awarded annually to the outstanding player in the Eastern Lightweight Football League, was established in honor of Colonel James L. Kays in 1990.

As a Department Head, Jim was faced with issues he had little need to address up to that point of his career. At the start of each Academic Year Jim would explain his expectations. Each year he would state Inappropriate Acts would not be tolerated. Each of 2 complaints would be evaluated, but a third would be automatic release. One officer stood in front of Jim twice before he got the message.

Cadets turned to Jim. One night he received a phone call from a concerned Cadet, requiring him to go to the roof of Cullum Hall to curtail a Spirit Mission. The Young Lady Cadet was clad in only 2 pieces of clothing. The first knock at his back door was by a Cadet who had visited a campus as an exchange student, and as she was unpacking her door was opened and 4 or 5 individuals entered threatening to rape her. The verbal abuse she yelled at them and the threats of bodily harm she would inflict drove them from the room. She packed and returned to West Point. Jim handled the situation giving her some satisfaction. The second knock at his back door was by a Cadet with a complaint against her Team Officer Responsible. Jim again met with the Commandant and was told to investigate the complaint. Jim was able to reach a Graduate in Germany who confirmed the officer’s conduct. The Officer immediately was relieved of duty and departed West Point.

In 1980 when Jim received his Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he was awarded the 1980 Joaquin B. Diaz Award, presented by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute annually to a doctoral student in recognition of outstanding academic achievement and research in mathematics. Jim contributed to over 17 Publications and spoke at over 21 Academic Presentations; he was a 1980-1982 Co-principal investigator conducting classified research in underwater acoustics for the Office of Naval Research; and 1985 Who’s Who in Frontier Science and Technology, Who’s Who in America. In 2020, Jim was inducted into the Army Operations Research Society of America Hall of Fame.

Jim’s Service contribution is represented by his three Army Commendation Medals (one for Valor), Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal w/Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit and Distinguished Service Medal. The Navy, even the Navy appreciated his contribution by naming him Chair of Naval Systems Engineering in 2008.

To look at numbers, Jim was a mentor to Cadets, and the 150 / Lightweight / Sprint Football Players of 29 West Point Classes. Take it a step further he was a mentor for the Women and Men he served with, but especially those of the System Engineering Department.

Six years ago, Jeane realized Jimmy was beginning to fail (Too Many Concussions). Jeane was at his side, caring for him every day. On 6 January, in Jimmy’s last hours, Jeane dressed him in a Beat Navy T-Shirt.

Sam Mills a linebacker and Assistant Coach gave the Carolina Panthers their Motto – “Keep Pounding” I failed the two times I Nominated Jim. I want you to Keep Pounding year after year until my Classmate, my Roommate, my Friend, the man who dragged me through Academics, (6th from the bottom) is inducted into the Army Sports Hall of Fame.

When you succeed, I will not speak. Nor will I attend. It is between you and Jim Kays.

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