Dr. James H. McCreary devoted much of his early life to music and marching bands. Born and reared in Byville, Ohio, he began studying music at the age of ten, taking lessons from a professor in Cambridge, Ohio.
He attended Camp Lazarus at the age of 13 and began twirling a sapling under the guidance of William Knepper, who was a camp counselor at the time.
Two years later his family moved to Columbus. This move gave him a better opportunity to be near his favorite teacher and observe firsthand all the exciting happenings going on at OSU. While serving as Boy Scout usher in the stadium, he developed a strong desire to become an OSU drum major. He was one step closer to his goal when he was chosen drum major at North High School.
In 1930 he enrolled at Ohio State. A protégé of Knepper, full of enthusiasm and eager to participate, he took up the challenge of a bandsman. He auditioned under Gus Bruder playing the Peck (tenor) horn. After the audition, he switched over to alto horn, and in his second year played the trumpet. The newly enacted ruling limiting a drum major to two years was in effect, so he waited for his last two years before trying out.
His baton twirling expertise and knowledge of the position enabled him during his third year to challenge Wibb Pettegrew and unseat him for the leadership of the band.
By the time McCreary took over his new leadership duties he had extensive experience. He had joined the 177th Infantry National Guard when he was 18, and performed as drum major of the unit's band. He had been preceded by Pearl Nickles, who in turn had taught McCreary new baton movements used for throwing the baton high in the air.
McCreary introduced a change in the method of throwing the baton. He no longer used a looping end-over-end toss; instead, he gripped the shaft in the center and, from a side motion, elevated the baton up and over the horizontal bar. He then caught it in the center of the shaft, with a continuous motion. The baton toss technique used to this day is essentially the same except for rolling it over the back of the hand for added lift.
McCreary was graduated in Arts Law in 1934 and entered the School of Medicine in 1935, graduating in 1939. During his pre-med years he returned to OSUMB, performing occasionally with Bill Casey in the pre-game and half-time shows. He wore his ROTC uniform with black Sam Browne belt and black boots. His aerial tosses were the highlight of the day with the "pink" edition of the Dispatch recording the event From 1951-1985. McCreary served on the OSUMB staff unofficially as the band physician, traveling to out-of-town games. "Doc", as he is affectionately called, is the band's oldest performing alumni drum major. He returns to the field each year, is the first out, and stands straight ... lean and tall; the fans love to watch him do his strut.