James Lynton Calhoun died December 3, 2019, in Baton Rouge, following a lengthy illness. He was 84.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Vilma C. Calhoun; brother, Dr. Milburn Calhoun and his wife Nancy; brother-in-law, James Lee; parents, Darrell L. and Mary Crowell Calhoun.
He is survived by his sister, Gloria Calhoun Lee of Calhoun, LA; son, Robert Calhoun of Covington, LA; daughter, Jennifer DiSanto and her husband John of Wenonah, NJ; and many nieces and nephews.
Born in West Monroe, LA, on March 17, 1935, he was a graduate of Ouachita Parish High School, Northeast Louisiana State College, and Louisiana State University. He served two years in The United States Air Force, where he was stationed in Japan. James was an employee in various positions within the LSU School System for more than 25 years until his retirement as Director of Communications for the President’s Office.
In 1970, he and his family members acquired Pelican Publishing Company, a small New Orleans book publishing company, that they relocated to Gretna. Over the next four decades and as Senior Editor, James enabled the company to expand its list of published titles from 22 to more than 2000. Today Pelican’s books are sold in every state and virtually in every English- speaking country in the world. With a sharp eye for finding books, for which there was a strong market, in 1974, he signed a contract to publish Zig Ziglar’s runaway motivational bestseller See You at the Top, which had been rejected by some 30 other publishers. Thirty-seven years later the book remains in print after almost 60 printings, and more than 1.8 million hardcover copies sold in more than a dozen languages. James also developed the Louisiana classic, Cajun Night Before Christmas series, which today includes some 29 titles, with more than half a million copies in print.
In retirement and in 2002, he co-founded The Loyce Johnston Foundation with his wife and a native of Honduras, Vilma C. Calhoun, which ministered to the medical, nutritional, and educational needs of children in Honduras directly benefiting hundreds of desperately poor young people.
While quiet and often serious, he was a voracious reader. His mornings always started with coffee and a stack of major newspapers. As a former speech writer, he loved to talk politics. Those that knew him well knew a person with a good sense of humor and a generous spirit. He liked to tease and disagree but was always quick to genuinely show his appreciation.
Visitation is at 9:00 A.M., Saturday, December 7, 2019, at Mulhearn Funeral Home in West Monroe, LA, with services immediately following at 10:00 A.M. Interment will be at Roselawn Memorial Gardens in Calhoun, LA.
The family would like to express sincere appreciation to Victor Romero and Norma Soileau for their love, dedication, and friendship to Jim over the years.
Memorials may be made to the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home.