Former Ravenswood football defensive coordinator Jason Jackson remembers Jim Porter - Part I
In 2013 I spent several evenings, stretched over a few weeks, interviewing Mr. Porter for the Ravenswood Football 100 year project. I had over six pages of notes from our talks! I had talked to every Ravenswood coach, or their family, over several years leading up to 2014. I have to say the days spent with Mr. Porter to gain his perspective on Ravenswood Football, as the band director was very special.
When I sat down to put all the interviews together and write the biographies for the 100-year book, Mr. Porter’s stretched out over four pages. I tried several times to pare it down but just could not do Mr. Porter’s story justice and what he meant to Ravenswood Football - and what Ravenswood football meant to him.
I was able to show how important he was to the team, students, school, and community of Ravenswood during his tenure. This story was originally printed in the 100 year, 190-page game program in 2014. This story is very long, but I felt it was worthy of sharing here so that more people could see what a great impact Mr. Porter had. Read on to find some unique information and stories on the man we all loved...Jim Porter, Ravenswood High School’s legendary band director.
James Frank Porter Jr. was born in 1926. His parents were James Frank Porter Sr. and Vera Straley Porter. James Jr. had one sister, Dixie. Jim Porter began life in Louisa, Kentucky, and at the age of five, moved with his family to a 50-acre farm located in Cat Hollow, Kentucky.
On that farm, Porter was raised through the depression and learned many great lessons he would use throughout his life. During those years the Porters farmed crops and raised animals. The family had a great love for FFA and supported the organization as much as possible. The Porter’s struggled just like many Americans did through the depression, but they certainly made do with what they had. James Sr. raised his family by working as many different jobs as possible through the farm. James Jr. was very proud of his upbringing in Cat Hollow.
Porter graduated from Inez high school in 1944 with 22 classmates. He loved music and band and enjoyed playing many instruments. While in high school, Porter played basketball and had a love for all sports. His love for music and sports would one day lead him to great things in his life.
Porter attended Marshall University and studied music. After graduating college he received a teaching position at Hurricane High school in Hurricane, West Virginia. He thoroughly enjoyed his position and the students. On a chance encounter, Porter met Ravenswood High School’s band director Lawrence Cappellanti. The two were at the Prichard Hotel in Huntington, attending the winter Band Master’s Association meeting. Cappellanti was playing the piano in the lobby of the hotel when Porter decided to join him by playing the same tune on the clarinet. Their impromptu session led to a friendship leading Porter to become familiar with Ravenswood and its school.
During Porter’s three-year tenure at Hurricane, a unique thing occurred when all four high schools of Putnam County had Marshall Graduates leading the band programs. Porter was friends with all of them and it seemed as if all was right and perfect in the path that he had chosen.
Porter said, “I enjoyed myself but I was always looking for something out there; the perfect place for me.”
The “perfect place” was revealed in 1952 when he took a phone call from Jackson County Schools Superintendent Otis Casto. It was sad news during that call - Ravenswood High’s beloved band director and friend to Porter – Lawrence Cappellanti - had passed away. The superintendent was also offering Porter the teaching and band director position. The Position had been temporarily held by Joe Dilley.
Porter decided to accept an interview and he traveled to Ravenswood. He was quite impressed with the small town of retired farmers and its position on the Ohio River. The people, especially the Band Mothers Club, made him feel right at home. They had made lunch and even had the band to play for him after his interview.
Porter then told the students about his friendship with Cappellanti. He toured the high school and fell in love with the school colors of Red and Black. After he completed the interview he was drawn down to the waters of the Ohio River contemplating his decision. Porter took off his shoes and put his feet in the beautiful Ohio. He looked across the waters and thought of the quaint little town and all of its hospitality as he looked up and told God, “Here I’ll live...and here I’ll stay...till the day I die.” Jim Porter found what his soul was looking for…Ravenswood, West Virginia. (Part II in The Jackson Herald on Friday.)