James J. Hagerty – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army

Hagerty, advised JFK in missile crisis

Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle
5 August 20045

James J. Hagerty, a historian and expert on the Soviet Union who briefed President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, died of cancer Monday, August 1, 2005, in his home in Conroe, Texas. He was 83.

Because of his knowledge of Soviet affairs, Hagerty met with Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara “one or two times” during the missile crisis, said his wife, Muriel Kellar Hagerty, of Conroe.

Hagerty joined the Army during World War II and, as a combat infantryman in General George Patton's Third Army, took part in the bitter fighting during the Ardennes offensive during the winter of 1944-45. His decorations included the Bronze Star with an oakleaf cluster.

Hagerty was recalled for Army duty in the Korean War. He served in various intelligence roles during the Cold War, attracting respect when he predicted the rise of Nikita Krushchev after the death of Josef Stalin, according to a former student and admirer, Ted Gittinger, a historian with the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin.

After 25 years in the Army, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Hagerty came to Texas in 1967 as a full professor of history at Sam Houston State University.

Lee Olm, a retired professor of history at Sam Houston, called granting a full professorship to someone with no previous academic positions a “very unusual” event.

As it turned out, Hagerty was popular with students and admired by his colleagues, Olm said.

Hagerty stayed at Sam Houston for 18 years, teaching courses in Russian history and Western civilization. In his early years at the university, Hagerty also taught courses in the Russian language. He was chairman of the university's history department from 1969 to 1972. Hagerty retired in 1985.

“Hagerty was a key figure in steering me into the academic world, and that was a key decision in my life,” Gittinger said. “There is no way to measure the debt that I owe to him, and many others would say the same.”

Hagerty also wrote a column, Current History, for the Huntsville Item from 1967 to 1970.

Born in New York City on September 2, 1921, Hagerty earned a bachelor's degree in 1947 and a master's in 1957 from Columbia University. He received a doctorate from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in 1965.

In addition to his wife, Hagerty is survived by five sons, James J. Hagerty Jr., of Danvers, Massachusetts, Kevin Hagerty, of Houston, Brian Hagerty, of Seattle, Terry Hagerty, of Madison, Wisconsin, and Paul Hagerty, of Pusan, South Korea; two daughters, Virginia Hagerty Gupton, of Austin, and Clare Hagerty, of Seattle; and three sisters, Kay Carroll, of Huntington, New York, Virginia Black, of Minoa, New York, and Joan Lincks, of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Visitation will be 6:30 to 8 p.m. today at Metcalf Funeral Directors in Conroe. A rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. today at the funeral home.

A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

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