Some people called him “C.J.” Others referred to him as “Humpy.” Some even considered him a father figure.
For many Crothersville natives, Cephas J. Masters was a special man.
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From being a veteran to owning businesses in the southeastern Jackson County town, people loved and respected him.
On April 21, Masters died at Lutheran Community Home in Seymour. He was 88.
As a way to honor him, Crothersville Town Councilman Bob Lyttle recently proposed placing C.J. Masters Way signs on each end of the stretch of U.S. 31 through town, known as Armstrong Street.
That would not change the name of the street. It would just be honorary recognition.
“C.J. Masters was here a long time. Every kid knew him. Everybody knew him. He put a lot into this town,” Lyttle told the other council members during a meeting. “You all may not feel the same way, but I feel we ought to recognize him. That’s just a suggestion.”
The process requires contacting a state representative or senator. If it passes through the Statehouse in Indianapolis, it’s sent on to the Indiana Department of Transportation because it involves a federal highway. Then INDOT would be responsible for erecting the signs.
In 2016, Crothersville Town Councilman Chad Wilson proposed making the same stretch of roadway Scott McKain Way to recognize the town native for his success as a professional speaker. That, however, didn’t make it past the Statehouse.
That same year, District 66 Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, got a measure passed through the Indiana General Assembly to name Interstate 65 between Seymour and Austin John Mellencamp Way in honor of the Seymour native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Those signs are placed between Austin and Crothersville northbound and just south of Seymour southbound.
Lyttle asked to have the Masters proposal added to the June council meeting’s agenda. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. June 4 at Crothersville Town Hall.
Masters was living in Lancaster, Kentucky, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He wound up serving from Oct. 4, 1951, to July 3, 1953.
After he was honorably discharged, he moved to Crothersville and worked as a route salesman for Holland Dairy for eight years delivering milk.
He later became known for owning and operating the DX Sunoco station and C.J.’s Arcade for more than 20 years.
Masters was involved with racing for more than 15 years, serving as a chief mechanic and entering cars at area tracks, including Brownstown Speedway. He spent many hours watching dirt track racing and following anywhere his sons were racing.
In 1980, he helped his two sons start MasterSbilt Race Cars in Crothersville. That business is still on U.S. 31 on the south edge of town.
“C.J. had a business in this town forever,” Lyttle said. “There isn’t a kid in three counties he doesn’t know. There isn’t a race car driver in three counties he doesn’t know or more.”
Councilman Lenvel “Butch” Robinson said he agreed with honoring Masters.
“C.J. has done a lot for the children in this town, I know that. If you went to his place and didn’t have a quarter to put in the machine, he would give you one,” Robinson said. “He actually helped this town out financially with his race car business down here.”
In 2017, Masters was recognized during the opening ceremonies of the Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival. Each year, the festival committee chooses a local veteran who served his or her country and the community to honor.
He received a plaque from festival organizer Sherry Bridges.
C.J. Masters Way would be another way for the community to honor him, Lyttle said.
“It’s just a thought that I think he ought to be recognized. I really do,” he said. “If you didn’t know him, you missed a heck of a man.”