BRYAN — Mason L. "Red" Cashion, a Bryan-College Station businessman and longtime NFL official, died Sunday morning. He was 87.
Cashion was most known nationally for two words: His signature, drawled "First down!" call during NFL games. In his 2013 autobiography, he wrote that two other words — "You're fired" — gave him the freedom and courage to make the infectious enthusiasm with which he refereed possible.
"I certainly hope you never have to hear those two words," wrote Cashion, "unless, of course, they have the same wonderfully positive effect on your life as they did on mine. Being fired was definitely a life-altering event for me in a good way."
The two words most synonymous with Cashion came to be, he wrote, because he was fired after one season as an official for the Southland Conference in the 1960s. His initial approach to officiating, he said, was to put forward a "dignified, detached, and stately" demeanor, but Southland Conference coaches said he seemed more aloof than anything.
He wrote that he would not have made it to the NFL if not for being fired — that it changed his perspective and pushed him to overhaul his work and life approach.
"I made a vow to live and work enthusiastically," he said. "As I met people and interacted with people I already knew, I was stunned by how contagious enthusiasm is in day-to-day life."
On Saturday, two of Cashion's children — Joyce Cashion Cain, 62, and 55-year-old Jim Cashion — said in an interview that their father's love of people extended beyond the gridiron and lived everywhere he went.
"He loved Texas A&M and he also loved Bryan-College Station," Cain said. "He never met a stranger, and he always believed in the good in people. It didn't matter your background."
"He was an ambassador to the Bryan-College Station community. He loved the people here. And the glass was always half-full for him," Jim Cashion said.
Cashion was born Nov. 10, 1931, at his parents' home in College Station, and he ran track and played football, basketball and baseball at A&M Consolidated High School. He attended Texas A&M on a baseball scholarship and graduated in 1953. He was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Cashion began his officiating career while finishing his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M. He retired from the NFL in 1997 after 25 years as an official, including 21 as a head referee. Cashion served as referee for Super Bowls XX and XXX.
After Cashion retired from the NFL, he served as chairman emeritus for ANCO Insurance in Bryan. During the 1960s and 1970s, Red went into business with his father-in-law, Hershel Burgess, who starred as a running back during A&M's undefeated 1927 season, and Red's best friend from high school, Dick Haddox. Their insurance business, Burgess, Cashion & Haddox, eventually merged with ANCO.
In addition to Jim Cashion and Cain, Red Cashion is survived by daughters Sharon L. Cashion and Shelley Cashion White, and by six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Cashion's life will take place at A&M United Methodist Church on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Callaway-Jones.