James A. Gaston was born in Herrin, Illinois, on December 18, 1941 to Albert and Iola (Cosey) Gaston. He spent much of his boyhood in Olathe, Kansas, before settling in the late 50's in north Arkansas where his father started Gaston's White River Resort in 1958. After his father's death Jim took over at the age of 20. Gaston transformed the small twenty acre resort with just six cabins into one of the nation's premiere outdoor getaways. Now covering over 400 acres with 79 cottages and a 3,200 foot airstrip, Gaston's is internationally known. He married Jill Glenn February 7, 1986, in El Dorado, Arkansas.
Gaston's love of flying traces to his youth - where he enjoyed watching planes flying over the family home. Beginning his flying lessons in Arkansas, and picking up his instrument ticket at about 1200 hours, Jim went on to fly for over 10 years as an aerobatic air show performer. Gaston was so accomplished, the Federal Aviation Administration appointed him as an FAA Safety Designee allowing him an unlimited waiver for air show performances. Jim retired from Aerobatics in 1983.
An early champion of tourism in Arkansas, Gaston was a lifetime member of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Commission. He served as a president of the group and was commissioner emeritus. He also served as president of the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation and was a past president of Arkansas Hospitality Association. He was slated to be honored with the Legacy Award from the Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame, which is a project of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Gaston was selected for the honor because of the key role he played in establishing trout fishing in Arkansas.
In 2010, Gaston was honored as the Business Executive of the Year by Arkansas Business and was a 1999 inductee into the Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame. Locally, Gaston served in the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce and several other civic groups. He was an inductee in the ASU-Mountain Home Trout Hall of Fame. He was named Arkansas Tourism Man of the year in 1985. Gaston was a philanthropist as well, sponsoring the Gaston Lobby at Roller Hall on the ASU-MH campus, as well as endowing the Gaston Lecture Series at the college. Gaston is memorialized for all his contributions by the James A. Gaston Visitor Center at the Bull Shoals-Whiter River State Park. The $4.7 million complex covers 15,744 square feet and includes state of the art Environmental Education Learning Center.
Later in life, Gaston became an accomplished outdoors photographer, publishing "An Ozark Perspective", a collection of his work.
Gaston died July 13, 2015 at the age of 73.