Retired State Senator Harold Leroy Caskey of Butler, Bates County, Missouri, passed away Thursday, October 1, 2015, at Shawnee Mission Hospital in Merriam, Kansas. Senator Caskey was 77 and had been in ill health with Parkinson's Disease. Senator Caskey was among the most veteran members of the Missouri General Assembly, winning election to seven terms representing Senate District 31. During his 28 years in the Senate, Senator Caskey sponsored and passed 327 pieces of legislation into law. Long-time friends noted that Senator Caskey was all the more remarkable as an influential lawmaker because he was legally blind since the first grade because of an inherited retina condition, Infantile Macular Scarring. The condition also affected Senator Caskey's sister and two of his three brothers. Because of his blindness, Senator Caskey could not perform many everyday tasks, such as driving, reading and recognizing friends except by their voices. But the condition added to Senator Caskey's tenacity in life and as a legislator, as he always considered his blindness more of a nuisance than a handicap. Despite his blindness, Senator Caskey was a high achiever in school, attending public elementary and secondary schools in Bates County and serving as senior class valedictorian. He graduated Magnum Cum Laude with dual majors in psychology and sociology from Central Missouri State University at Warrensburg, now the University of Central Missouri. Senator Caskey went on to earn a law degree from the University of Missouri- Columbia, where he was elected to the Order of Coif, with membership limited to the top 10 percent of law students. Senator Caskey later said: "Throughout my schooling, I attended regular classes with fully-sighted students, relying on my memory and tape recorders to help make up for my inability to read. In law school, I took no notes, but went to lectures, not for verbatim memorization but for understanding." After graduating from the MU School of Law, Senator Caskey in 1963 began the practice of law in the office of then-State Senator William Cason in Clinton. Senator Caskey opened his own law practice in Butler in 1965. He served as city attorney for the communities of Butler and Rich Hill. Senator Caskey's first elected office was as Bates County Prosecuting Attorney, a post in which he served three terms. He also worked in academia, serving as an assistant professor in law enforcement and business education at Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University in Kirksville.
He was a member of the Rotary Club of Butler; the Missouri Bar Association; 27th Judicial Bar Association; Cass County Bar Association; Crescent Hill Masonic Lodge #368 A.F. & A.M.; Scotish Rite of Free Masonry in the Valley of Orient in Kansas City, Missouri; Ararat Shrine; Bates County Mizzou Alumni Club; an Honorary Fellow of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs; the Bates County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees; and he was a member of Butler First Baptist Church. Senator Caskey was born to James Alfred Caskey, a coal mine foreman, and Edith Irene Anderson Caskey, a housewife, in Hume, Missouri on January 3, 1938. He was the fourth of five children. He married Marjorie Swaidner in June 1962 in Macon, Missouri, and due to a car accident she preceded him in death in February 1971. On October 26, 1974, Senator Caskey married Dorenda Kathryn "Kay" Head in Novelty, Knox County, Missouri. To their union was born one son, Kyle James Caskey, on March 9, 1978. Senator Caskey is survived by his wife, Kay, of the home; son, Kyle; sister, Velma Elaine May of Lansing, Kansas; brothers Robert Caskey of Ozark, Missouri, Leon Caskey (Shirley) of Clinton, Missouri and Ray Lee Caskey (Jeri Leigh) of Alton, Missouri; brothers-in-law Glenn Head of Novelty, Missouri and Neal Head (Debbie) of Osage Beach, Missouri; and nieces, nephews and cousins. Funeral services for Senator Caskey will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, October 8, 2015, at the Adrian Optimist Club Community Building, Old US Highway 71, Adrian, Missouri, with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II officiating. Burial will be in Oak Hill Cemetery, Butler, Missouri. Senator Caskey will lie in state at the Adrian Optimist Building beginning at 12 noon, Wednesday, October 7. Masonic Rites will be held at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday and will be conducted by the Butler Lodge 254 A.F. & A.M., after which the family will receive friends at the Adrian Optimist Building. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be given to the University of Central Missouri Harold Caskey Scholarship, Friends of Butler Senior Center, or the donor's choice. Arrangements under direction of the Schowengerdt Funeral Chapel (660-679-6555) Butler, Missouri and assisted by Terry Rice. Online condolences www.schowengerdtchapel.com.
“Throughout his life, Harold Caskey was a true champion for the people of west-central Missouri and for working men and women all across our state. As a state senator, Harold’s leadership and depth of legislative knowledge had a real and positive impact on the lives of his constituents and helped guide many of his colleagues, including me during my six years in the Senate. Demonstrating that he would not let the loss of his sight keep him from continuing to serve the state that he loved so much, even during his later years Harold continued to be a strong advocate for Missourians who are blind or visually impaired. Harold’s intelligence, sense of humor and dedication to public service inspired us all. My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of the First Lady, are with Kay and all the members of their family
|Doris Houx Kirkpatrick with Sen. Harold Caskey|
|The Great Team of Harold and Kay Caskey|
Published in Kansas City Star on Oct. 7, 2015
Phill Brooks: RIP Harold Caskey, a remarkable legislator
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015 7:00 am
Missouri lost on the first day of October one of the state’s most influential legislators in decades — Harold Caskey.
But few in the Statehouse would apply to Caskey the term some of my journalism students privately used as a display of affection about him — “teddy bear.”
Realize how intimidating Caskey could be for a beginning student reporter with little background about the legislative process and the issues being debated.
Caskey was no lightweight. He helped lead the efforts to rewrite the state’s school-funding law, to legalize concealed weapons and to raise the speed limits on state highways.
He had a reputation for being one of the toughest lawmakers in the state.
Caskey was a lawyer and former prosecutor. The assertiveness those professions require to be successful gave him an edge over the increasing number of non-lawyers in the General Assembly.
Indeed, Caskey could be tremendously intimidating if you were unprepared on an issue you were talking with him about — whether it be an agency official or a reporter.
You did not bluff with the senator from Bates County, if you were unfamiliar about an issue. He could see right through you. Instead, if you just admitted your ignorance, Caskey would go to great lengths to help you understand.
That was one of the most important lessons he taught my journalism students.
My students’ adoption of the affectionate term “teddy bear” arose after an incident in 1996 when Caskey was a leader in the successful efforts to raise highway speed limits and limit penalties for minor speeding violations.
In a private conversation, he joked with me that he was the only legislator who did not have a personal conflict of interest with the issue because he was legally blind and thus could not drive.
Good story, I thought. So I asked Caskey if I could have one of my reporters interview him about it. He agreed.
But when my reporter tried to interview Caskey, he challenged the reporter for making an issue about his physical disability.
When I went to Caskey to apologize for my misunderstanding, he said no apology was needed. He was willing to talk about the issue, but thought my reporter needed to be more assertive.
After I reported that back to my reporters, they learned to display more confidence when interviewing Caskey, as well as other sources.
And when they approached Caskey with confidence, they discovered one of the most cooperative and helpful members of the Legislature.
After all, in the Legislature he was a leader in improving education and expanding student scholarships.
Over the years, I also began to realize that he also was a natural teacher.
As a former prosecutor, I sensed Caskey thought aggressiveness in questioning was an essential skill that journalism students needed to develop, just like law students. He was absolutely correct.
From subsequent experiences of the tremendous assistance Caskey provided, despite his sometimes intimidating presence, several of my journalism students adopted and passed on to future generations of students that affectionate term “teddy bear” about Harold Caskey.
After Harold Caskey’s passing, I suspect few in the Statehouse who would think of him as a teddy bear.
Despite his legislative successes, he was not liked by some who came under his sometimes grilling inquiries — as one former state official recently reminded me.
He was tough, sometimes stern, and occasionally lived up to his reputation of being cranky.
But for my students who adopted the term “teddy bear” for Harold Caskey, they found a kind, gentle and helpful soul who taught them the importance of confidence.
Harold Caskey’s death reminded me of how deeply I have missed the teddy bear for what he taught my students and what I learned from him about teaching journalists before he was forced out of office by term limits a decade ago.
Phill Brooks has been a Missouri Statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the Statehouse press corps. He is the Statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Remembering Missouri Senator Harold Caskey
By ROGER WILSON and JAMES MATHEWSON Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm As former elected officials now long retired from politics and policymaking, we have no delusions of being remembered forever. The Missouri Capitol corridors are full of portraits of men and women who served their terms, made marks of varying distinctions and departed the building and, ultimately, this Earth. But state Sen. Harold Caskey, who died Thursday, deserves more recognition than most because he did more to affect laws and the lives of the people of Missouri. Harold did more by confronting and conquering the major life challenge of being legally blind since childhood because of a genetic condition. Although he lacked sight, Harold never lacked a personal vision for the potential of Missouri. Blindness instilled in Harold a tenacity that could at times be called stubbornness. This was especially true when it came to educating our children. No legislator better understood the mechanics and complexities of school finance. No legislator was a stronger advocate for rural schools than Harold, who recognized they are the lifeblood of rural communities. Harold was a lead sponsor of the Excellence In Education Act, which led to smaller class sizes and set minimum pay for teachers to keep smaller schools competitive in hiring and retaining great educators. He also was a strong backer of Senate Bill 380, which provided the largest infusion of funding for public schools in generations while setting high standards. Harold’s mind and its workings could be a beautiful process or a fearsome experience. That is because Harold never stood up on the Senate floor with less than total preparedness. He accomplished this with loyal and dedicated staff members who read the text of bills into tape recorders — texts that Harold then memorized late into the night. Senators lived in apprehension of being publicly corrected by Harold, sometimes in regard to their own bills. Harold was what we call an oldschool Missouri Democrat — prolife, progun, propublic education and especially propeople when it came to taking care of constituents. We might not have agreed on all issues, but we would rather have Harold for us than against us. Many times Harold was preceded into the president pro tem’s office by the sound of his heavy cowboy boots stomping on the marble. He would arrive lecturing in the most colorful terms, to which the president pro tem would repeatedly reply, “Harold, I love you!” Eventually Harold would turn back to his office, still lecturing. He wasn’t all hardcharging negotiator. Harold would ply senators with a vast array of homemade pies from bakeries in his district. He had a quiet personal manner and, as U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill eulogized, he was “secretly a sweet softie.” Nowhere was this quality proved as much as when Harold welcomed to his office and advocated for the blind and people with disabilities. 10/9/2015 Remembering Missouri Senator Harold Caskey Columbia Daily Tribune | Columbia Missouri: OpEd http://www.columbiatribune.com/opinion/oped/rememberingmissourisenatorharoldcaskey/article_ac0a0c6b59545d9f86a613d3de68a44b.html 2/3 As Harold would tell you, his secret to success was his adored wife, Kay, who gave the taxpayers free service by tirelessly taking care of constituents back home. She was Harold’s eyes and his ears in the district. Our prayers for comfort go out to Kay, Kyle and the family. Term limits took Harold out of the Senate after 28 years. But the proportional loss of wisdom with his Jefferson City exit was far greater than can be measured by a calendar. This is our personal remembrance of a colleague from our shared Missouri Senate service, which, for the three of us, totaled some 65 years in the chamber. We mourn the passing of a great man and a great friend. But Harold Caskey’s life will be remembered as one of service and positive inspiration that will stand for years to come. Roger Wilson is a former Missouri governor, lieutenant governor and state senator; James Mathewson is a former president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.
|Sen. Harold L. Caskey, 1980|
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to congratulate a friend and political colleague from Missouri, State Senator Harold L. Caskey, who was recognized recently for his outstanding work in behalf of people who are blind.
Harold was named 1997 State Official of the Year by the General Council of Industries for the Blind. It is a recognition he richly deserves in light of his work in enacting the State Use Law for the State of Missouri. In addition, his leadership and commitment to the Lighthouse for the Blind will open the door for blind people to receive training, and enable them to lead meaningful and independent lives.
My friend, Harold Caskey, is visually impaired, but there is no selfish motivation to his work to improve access to the blind. He stands out as a model civic leader, with a successful career in law and government. His blindness, however, has given him a unique vision and insight most people lack, and he is using that vision to pave the way for inclusion.
Mr. Speaker, I know my colleagues will join me in congratulating Harold Caskey, and join the General Council of Industries for the Blind in commending his good work.