Remembering James N. Creighton, 1939-2019

The family of James N. Creighton is sharing this remembrance with the community:

James Nelson Creighton, passed away peacefully on Nov. 29, 2019 in West Seattle, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Born Oct. 1, 1939 to James and Thelma Creighton in Wadena, Minn., Jim (or “Jamie”) moved with his parents and younger brother, Stuart, to Seattle in 1942. He attended Fauntleroy Elementary, Denny Middle and graduated from West Seattle High School. It was there, in history class, where he met his future wife of 57 years, Diane Finch.

Jim played guard for West Seattle HS, and was talented enough to play football at the collegiate level: first for Everett Community College (All-Coast Conference and All-American Small College), then for the University of Puget Sound, where he also was an assistant coach for one year. He was recruited to play for the Chicago Bears.

Jim graduated from UPS in 1962 with a BA in history and education and became a public school teacher. He completed graduate work in U.S. history, philosophy and constitutional law at the UW, Seattle U., Central and Northwestern University. Jim taught history and coached football, track and basketball first at Grand Coulee, then at Luther Burbank, Ballard and Cleveland High. In 1973, he moved to Seattle’s Garfield High, where he taught and coached for 31 years.

There, he served as Garfield’s history department chair for 15 years, developing the Advanced Placement programs in U.S. history, European history, and American Government and Politics. He was an advisor to the College Board on AP History; his AP study guides were widely used by teachers here and nationwide. Jim was also Garfield’s head football and soccer coach, taking his teams to multiple playoffs and state championships. He concluded his teaching career at Newport High in Bellevue in 2006.

Jim was a member of Kappa Sigma at UPS and a proud member of the Big W Club at West Seattle High. He enjoyed reading, sailing, watching movie all things history and watching football (especially the Huskies).

Jim is survived by his wife of 57 years, Diane (Finch) Creighton; his daughters, Jocelyn (Chris) McCabe and Jennifer Creighton; and grandson Ryan McCabe. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Thelma Creighton, and his brother, Stuart Creighton.

It is impossible to capture the number of lives Jim impacted as a teacher, mentor, coach, and friend. However, we know all that he did for us as a father and husband, and for that, we are forever grateful.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation or Medic One. Special thanks also to the care team at Providence Mount St. Vincent.

(UPDATE) Friends and family will gather to celebrate the life of Jim Creighton on Saturday, March 7 from 1-3 p.m. at Salty’s on Alki. Please RSVP to 360.870.8708 or to be added to the list of attendees..

(WSB publishes West Seattle obituaries by request, free of charge. Please e-mail the text, and a photo if available, to

15 Replies to "Remembering James N. Creighton, 1939-2019"

  • kumalavula December 11, 2019 (10:50 am)

    creighton’s classroom was above mine in the old (pre rennovated building) at garfield when we both taught there over twenty years ago. years and years of memories this announcment brings back. yes, so many students taught, so much history explained.  r.i.p. jim.  my condolences to his family.

  • Conjunction Junction December 11, 2019 (11:18 am)

    Thanks Mr/Coach Creighton for your life of service to students!  Our family is lucky enough to be both a Bulldog and Wildcat household, and can appreciate you and what you built at GHS.  Best to the family.

  • Tito December 11, 2019 (12:14 pm)

    … except there probably was no “Denny Middle”   in the 1950’s.

    • WSB December 11, 2019 (1:18 pm)

      Yes, there was, only under a slightly different name, originally David T. Denny Junior High School, at the old campus (30th/Thistle). “Middle” is a relatively recently adopted term in many places; in Hawaii, I went to what was at the time Kaimuki Intermediate School.

  • dsa December 11, 2019 (3:35 pm)

    RIp Jim Creighton, my son thought highly of you.As a graduate of Denny Junior High School, I can tell you it was never called middle school.

  • Katie R December 11, 2019 (8:04 pm)

    Jim Creighton was my AP U.S. history teacher at Garfield in 1987, where I remember him sharing his passion for both history and cinema. That photo in the middle is exactly how I recall him. Thank you, Mr. Creighton.

  • Sean P Riley December 12, 2019 (8:31 pm)

    Mr. Creighton was such a good teacher. In 1996 I was in his US History class. At semester I asked if I could move into his AP course. He said sure, and because of his instruction, I earned a five on that test. I wasn’t on the AP track like so many kids at Garfield. I was a scrappy kid who had gone to Denny. He made me feel like I belonged with the best and brightest, that I was one of the best and brightest. His class really prepared me for college. Thank you, Mr. Creighton!

  • Mike Thompson December 13, 2019 (8:44 am)

    Mr. Creighton was a tremendous History teacher, coach and mentor. He will be missed. RIP.Mike Thompson class of 80.

  • Jason S December 13, 2019 (2:27 pm)

    I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Creighton as my US History AP teacher at Garfield.  His knowledge of the subject and love for teaching were second to none.  The AP test seemed easy because we were so well prepared!  I still remember his maps and diagrams of Civil War battle scenes.Thank you Mr. Creighton for touching so many lives in a positive manner. 

  • Walter Kinghammer December 13, 2019 (7:06 pm)

    Thank you coach, working with you on football team, and taking you history class. I loved your passon for history and the way you told to us. I remember  the day you came to class with 2 black eyes, the story behind it had us all laughing even you. Your 2 year daughter hi ayhed you like miss piggy did on the muppets. You tild the story with such love , you inspired alot of kids at Garfield and i know i. Grateful for your contribution to my life. 

  • David Fidler December 13, 2019 (7:52 pm)

    Thank you Mr Creighton.You taught an inspiring AP history class and I’ve enjoyed the subject ever since.  You also gave me great advice when we were rabble rousing at the school newspaper.Rest In Peace David FidlerGarfield Class of 80

  • Nettie Legters December 13, 2019 (9:05 pm)

    I honestly don’t think I would have had the opportunities I’ve had without Mr. Creighton’s committed teaching and coaching. AP and soccer and his letter of recommendation (how did he find time to write those?) helped get me a full ride scholarship to a school I would never have been able to afford. Thank you Mr. C. I will always remember your energy, sincerity, and unexpected humor that made me laugh and feel like it was going to be ok. RIP.If the service is public I would love to receive more information. 

  • Amy Lawton Meyer December 14, 2019 (12:13 am)

    A legend at Garfield! A lifetime of gratitude for my endless love of history inspired by your teaching- a love I’ve passed on to my own children! Even though I was the tail end of a long line of Lawtons- all of whom I believe you taught at one point- you always made me feel special and believe that anything was possible with hard work and perseverance! Rest in peace and know your rich legacy lives on in the lives of all your students spanning decades! Peace and comfort to your loving family- what a beautiful and meaningful life well lived💖💝🙏🏽

  • Lynn M Shelton December 14, 2019 (4:54 pm)

    Experiencing Mr. Creighton’s teaching was nothing short of life-changing. It sounds dramatic, but that makes it no less true. I’m endlessly grateful that I was lucky enough to have benefitted from his superb lecturing, his brilliant instigation and moderation of class discussions, his fierce passion for engaging each and every one in that classroom, and for his ability to raise the expectation level that we each had for our own self-achievement. Rest in peace, and thank you forever, sir. All love and sympathy to your family for their profound loss. 

  • Kathryn Helde December 14, 2019 (6:18 pm)

    I had Mr. Creighton’s US AP class as a junior in 1982-83. He transformed me from from someone who struggled mightily with writing to someone with a voice and and a strong organized argument. His enthusiasm engaged us. As an adult, I find it hard to comprehend how he was able to teach and coach so much, simultaneously. He always had command of the room, and I can remember loving his rare laughter. He is a giant and will be missed. 

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