Born Saturday, May 14, 1938
Died Friday, July 24, 2020
James Earl Christian was born on May 14, 1938 in Hobbs, New Mexico to Pauline and Alvin. Migrating from New Mexico to Texas, the family settled in Muskogee, Oklahoma when James was young. He had an insatiable thirst for knowledge--he was often found reading the dictionary. James attended Muskogee Public Schools and graduated from the historic Manual Training High School in 1956. After completing two years at Muskogee Junior College, he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Science Education from Northeastern State University. He would later go on to complete a master’s of educational administration from Northeastern State University and continue post-master’s education at Arizona State University, Kansas State Teachers College, and the University of Tulsa. His education culminated with a Doctor of Education from the University of Oklahoma.
James was a proud alumnus of Manual Training High School. He returned to the institution to complete his student-teaching and formally began his career in education as a science teacher in 1962. In 1972, Christian was appointed Director of Secondary Education for the newly integrated school system. In 1974, he became a consultant for the University of Oklahoma Continuing Education Center. Dr. Christian returned to Muskogee as Director of Secondary Education in 1979 and began serving as Assistant Superintendent in 1984.
In 1987, after serving as the interim, Dr. James E. Christian was named Superintendent of Muskogee Public Schools.
Dr. Christian was widely regarded by colleagues as a communicator with a sincere concern and interest in people. He extended respect to everyone. He had the utmost respect for and of teachers and remained a teacher at heart.
Christian’s accomplishments while serving as superintendent are deeply impressive. Curriculum, instructional programs, enrichment programs, non-instructional management, city involvement, staff involvement, community communications all improved under his expert leadership. While at the helm, Muskogee Public School District received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Dropout Prevention Award for the district’s model alternative program, the Exemplary Award for having a district with an Outstanding Chapter 1 Program in the United States, and he was appointed to serve as Education Representative of Oklahoma to the Regional State Conference on “Drug Free Schools.” He started the Public School Foundation, opened schools, ensured that students had access to state of the art technology, organized task forces, improved instruction, and secured millions of dollars in grant funding.
All kids can learn. Dr. James E. Christian’s legacy is deep and far-reaching. Beyond his educational expertise, Dr. Christian’s commitment to quality education, equal access, and community is obvious in his lifetime pledge to his beloved fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. He was a lifetime member and local treasurer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He’s served as a member of the State Legislative Task Force for Literacy, the Steering Committee for Oklahoma School Funding Reform, and the Committee for Research and Policy Development. He served on the board of directors for the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce, the advisory boards for Conners State College and Bacone College, Muskogee Rotary Club, as well as many other professional and community-based organizations and committees. He’s received countless awards and recognition for his contributions to education and his community.
James was preceded in death by his father, Alvin Christian, beloved mother, Pauline Jeffrey, and brothers, Alvin Huby and Johnnie. He is survived by his brothers, Charles, Willie, and Herman, loving nieces and nephews as well as innumerable friends, students, colleagues, and acquaintances whose lives he profoundly impacted throughout his life.
A Home Going Celebration will be conducted Saturday August 1, 2020 at 11:00 AM in Boulevard Christian Church, 1700 W Shawnee St, Muskogee, OK 74401 with Pastor Marlon Coleman, Antioch Temple of Hope Church, Eulogizing. Interment will follow in Booker T. Washington Cemetery, Muskogee, Oklahoma. Visitation, Friday July 31, 2020 beginning at 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m.
In observance of COVID regulations, Masks are mandatory.
Charitable donations may be made to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Thurgood Marshall Institute in memory of Dr. James E. Christian (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dr. Christian's services will be live streamed by Boulevard Christian Church (bccok.com) beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The family has been cared for by House of Winn Funeral Home, Muskogee.