“I am very proud of my Arkansas State education, and I had a great experience – therefore, I have loyalty,” said former A-State baseball third baseman Jim Callaway.
Arkansas State provided Callaway with an opportunity to play sports at the next level, to get a quality education, and to gain the knowledge needed to reach the pinnacle of success over an extensive telecommunications career.
Following high school graduation, Callaway received an offer to play professional baseball. However, his dad had a different plan for his future, and it was simple-go to college.
“He didn’t get the chance to go, but he knew the value of college and he told me to just go,” said Callaway. “That was some good advice, and I felt pretty confident that I could play ball for someone right away. Back in the day, freshmen weren’t eligible in certain conferences, but they were at Arkansas State.
“Once I got there, there was never any question that Arkansas State was my school. After I was there for a while, I just became locked in and never thought twice about it.”
Callaway, a three-time All-Southland Conference selection, helped lead A-State to a 1967 SLC championship, and a 26-8-1 finish, which remains as the highest winning percentage in program history.
“By the time I hit my junior year, we already had a pretty good nucleus of players,” said Callaway. “But then we added some great young talent and everything gelled and we just took off – we won more than we lost.”
In 1968, the then Indians repeated as Southland champions and earned a berth in the NCAA College Division World Series, the only appearance in school history.
“It was a big deal for us and we were excited about it,” said Callaway. “We were a little disappointed with our finish, but it was a really fun year. In athletics, you have a lot of ups and downs, but it teaches you to persevere, to not keep your head down, and to continue to work and hope that a good day will follow.”
Concluding two historic seasons for Arkansas State baseball, the phone didn’t ring on draft day for Callaway.
“I sort of played my way out of becoming a prospect,” said Callaway. “At the end of my senior year, a couple of teams were still talking to me, but on draft day the phone didn’t ring. I thought to myself, ‘oh my gosh, I have got to get a job.”
Majoring in business administration, and being around a business lifestyle growing up, Callaway knew he wanted to explore the field in some compacity after athletics.
He began his professional career, shortly after graduation, in Pine Bluff, Ark., with Southwestern Bell Telephone.
“June (1968) was sort of a big month for me”, said Callaway. “I graduated college, played in the College World Series, and got married. I also got into the Army Reserve and then I was hired by Southwestern Bell. I had a bunch of life-changing things, sort of happening all at once. Fortunately, it all worked out.”
Callaway was the lead executive in charge of integrating Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) and AT&T following SBC’s acquisition of AT&T. In 2005, He managed the integration of Bell South and Cingular in a subsequent merger.
“Eventually, we came full circle,” said Callaway. “I started in the Southwestern Bell system with AT&T as the parent company, then SBC, who ended up buying AT&T. It was an interesting moment for all of us that started in the Bell System.”
Callaway returned to AT&T at the corporate level in 1981, and in 1982 he was selected by his old Southwestern Bell Region to start the Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems.
“I was the only employee for a very short period,” said Callaway. “All we had were licenses, so we had to create it, build it, and get it started. That was one of my most enjoyable assignments – to start a company, within a bigger company, it was interesting.”
“It’s stuff for the history books,” Callaway added.
During his career, he held management positions in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New York and San Francisco. At various stages in his telecommunications career, he was the executive in charge of wireless, telephone company operations, marketing, Yellow Pages, and international operations
“You have to be flexible, in that regard, when you’re changing so much,” Callaway said.
The Little Rock native, spoke on how Athletics prepared him for the business world.
“You learn about being involved with a team,” said Callaway. “The team is only successful if all of the individuals are successful. You’re always having to excel in athletics, and it’s very much like being in business. You have to personally do well, but you’re also in a team environment and you have to pull for the team.”
Callaway was inducted in the Arkansas State Athletics Hall of Honor in 1992 and was named a distinguished alumnus in 2007 by the Arkansas State University Alumni Association.
“I worked all over the country, as well as internationally,” said Callaway. “My education played well everywhere, and I never felt like my education was slighted in any way. My education held up well, no matter where I worked, or who I worked with.”
Callaway retired in 2011 as the Senior Executive Vice President for Executive Operations reporting to the chairman of AT&T, but is still serving on the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Spurs.
“When I retired, I was asked if I would represent AT&T on the Board, and I thought ‘wow, what a great retirement present that is”, said Callaway. “It’s been a great experience. It’s a great organization that has had great success on the basketball court.”
Callaway shared professional advice for current Arkansas State student-athletes.
“I think sports prepare you,” said Callaway. “I think If you’re a student-athlete, you need to make sure you take care of the student part, and if you take care of the student part, then you’ll be prepared no matter what. The percentage of ballplayers in just about any sport who go on and make it to the top is very small, and it’s a tough road, but if you take care of the student part, and the phone doesn’t ring, then you’ll certainly have something to fall back on.
“If you’re fortunate enough to play professionally, then you’ll still have something to fall back on. But I would just say make sure you take care of the student part first – it’s a great background to have, it will serve you well,” Callaway concluded.
Callaway graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in business administration and a minor in journalism in 1968.
Callaway lives in San Antonio, Texas, and is married to A-State alumna Paula. They have three children, Colby, Carter, and Casey.
Original article source: https://astateredwolves.com/news/2020/7/21/arkansas-state-athletics-where-are-they-now-jim-callaway.aspx | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council