Everybody called him “Jim,” and everybody liked him. It was the power of his personality more than his musical expertise which allowed him to build a Songster Brigade of over 80 voices for almost 25 years during the ’60s and ’70s. With that group he introduced to the Army a number of remarkable devotional pieces by non-Army composers.
Retired Congress Hall Songster Leader James Paton died the other day during open heart surgery. He left a remarkable legacy of consecrated commitment and competence. He was 78.
A son of the regiment, he and his wife, Gladys Campbell entered Salvation Army officership after service during World War II in the U.S. Navy. Following a number of appointments in the Central Territory he took leave and returned to Southern California to complete his education. After 17 years of officership, the Patons made Southern California their home. It was during this period that Jim, Harry Stillwell, Don Torgerson and Ed Hultin developed what was to become the highly innovative and renowned Congress Hall Combo which introduced contemporary melodies and styles. A number of other musicians also participated in the group during its heyday. They include Captain Ruby Palm (Adams), Captain Gene Rice, Goff Crusberg and Captains Glenn and Darlene Austin.
Professionally, Jim owned and managed a number of convalescent and retirement homes and assisted the Army in developing its Silvercrest program. Later, he managed some of these facilities on behalf of the Army. In the late ’80s Jim led the songsters at the Long Beach Citadel and at the time of his death was a soldier of the Pasadena Tabernacle.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, two brothers, Brigadier David Paton (R) and Colonel. John Paton (R) along with his two children James Randall Paton and Janet Lyn Paton Carr of Portland, Oregon. He and Gladys have five grandchildren.
Prior to his surgery, Jim told his family that he was in God’s hands and that he was looking forward to being with his family afterwards–whether on earth or in heaven.