Dear Friends of Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery,
Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day arose in the shattered aftermath of World War I, “the war to end all wars,” or “the Great War.” That war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, and for many years, Veterans Day was commemorated on November 11. Then, in 1968, Veterans Day was moved so that it would always fall on a Monday or a Friday and provide workers with a three-day weekend. Finally, in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed legislation returning the holiday to November 11, except when November 11 falls on a Saturday, when Friday is the day that the holiday is observed, or on a Sunday, when on Monday it is celebrated.
Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World War I and II on or near November 11. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday the second Sunday in November. In Europe, Great Britain and in the Commonwealth countries like Australia, India, New Zealand and Canada, it is customary to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on November 11. Some Americans conflate Veterans Day and Memorial Day; however, the former honors all veterans, whether living or not, while Memorial Day honors only our dead. Both days are federal holidays, but most states celebrate those days, as well.
This month in our LOFC newsletter we seek to honor all our veterans from Holmes County, and although it would be impossible to identify all of them, we will recognize those about whom we have information. In this regard, we invite the reader to the LOFC website, where there is an Honor Roll of Veterans. If you have a family member or friend who is not listed on the Honor Roll of Veterans, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to add pertinent military information.
Dr. Banks Shepherd writes that in walking the Lexington Square during World War II, he noted the following: “Going north from the First National Bank was the Office Price Administration. During World War II some of the things for which they were responsible were the rationing of gasoline and sugar. We had stamps in a booklet and had to produce them to buy these two items. It was also the place where you had to register to be able to buy a bicycle; giving them a reason why you needed one. I was just beginning delivering papers, so I applied for a “Victory Bike,” which had bigger wheels and skinnier tires. Daddy got my bicycle in Greenwood, however, so I never got the Victory Bike. I am not certain about shoes and their rationing. It may be that the cost of them and one’s financial circumstances governed the purchase of shoes.”
“Beall’s Drug Store sat on the corner where People’s Drug Store is now. Underneath the drug store was a pool room, where a few of my leisure hours were spent. Since it was below street level you could not see inside, and I am certain that it was thought to be a den of iniquity. My cousin, Arch Rhyne, ran the pool hall, and he may have actually lived there. He had lost a leg earlier in life and had an artificial leg. Sometimes if you came in later at night, he might have taken the leg off and it would be standing in the corner. My father said that Arch lost his leg in an accident while racing a car in the county fair.”
“West of the Volunteer Grocery Store and the City Barbershop was the jail. At that time executions were by electrocution. My father, as the Lexington Advertiser Editor, attended these.” (Guest Writer’s note: It is said that you always knew when the actual electrocution took place, because when they pulled the lever to send the electricity into the person being electrocuted, lights flashed all over town.)
Will Lewis, Jr., Patty Povall Lewis’s husband, has collected papers from a University of Mississippi Special Collection covering members of the Mississippi National Guard who trained at Camp Blanding in Florida. They – mostly in Battery B -- were part of an artillery unit, and the names are familiar to those of us in my generation: Edwin Tye Neilson was the commanding officer of Battery B, and some of the other names are Hillary Kittrell “Bubber” Ginn, William H. “W. H.” Fincher, John Hathcock, Lawrence M. Herring, Isaac R. King, Thomas R. Taylor, Howell Brock, James Barrentine, Daniel F. Malone, Thurman Moses, Arthur Tate, Henri P. Watson, Jr., Sharkey J. White, James Dickard, Bennie F. Byrd, Gary and Leslie Farmer, Charles Haffey, Sam Hodges, Edward H. Rhyne, Cecil Weems, Milton D. Applebaum, James H. and James W. Bevill, Jr., John L. Ezell, Jack B. Farmer, Grover Grantham, William W. Grantham, Ben Moore Hammett, Vivian Hammett, William P. Hammett, Jr., Eugene Herman, Hiram L. “H. L.” Malone, Norrell Jordan, Roy E. Marshall, Ellie H. Siddon, Harold L. Upchurch, William H. Farmer, Hugh Johnson, and James W. Malone. The headquarters battery was commanded by First Lieutenant George O. Povall. So, the old names familiar to so many of us appear time and again in the rosters of Battery B and the headquarters battery. Again, I refer the reader to the Honor Roll of Veterans on the LOFC website.
I will include a few other stories that may resonate with you. Mabry Smith, for example, served in the Army Air Corps in World War II with the 493rd Bomb Group stationed at Debach, England, a B-17 outfit. Besides sending the bombers into Germany, the base took a hit from a V2 rocket intended for London. It missed London, but Mabry, who was near the point of impact, survived.
Harris “Buck” Powers, Sr. served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He completed flight training at the Greenwood Army Airbase, and while stationed there met his wife Patricia who lived in Greenwood. According to his son, Harris, Jr., “he was scheduled to transition into B-29’s to fly in the Pacific before the war mercifully ended and he was spared that adventure.”
Joseph “Joe” Berman volunteered for the Army and at the end of the war, he was a full Colonel and served as a military judge trying Japanese war criminals in Korea. His son Bob Berman served in the United States Army as a First Lieutenant and Platoon Leader in a Rifle Company in the 10th Infantry Division and served as Executive Officer of his Company. Bob's cousin Henry Paris served as a Lieutenant in the Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base. Wilburn Hooker served in submarines after training in New London, CT. He sailed out of San Francisco to Australia then on up to the Philippines, where he was when the war ended. Sidney Henley served in the 1339th Engineer Construction Battalion in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Fred Shepard Swinney was a Navy Radioman and died when the Hellcat fighter in which he was flying was shot down. Quinn McClellan’s grandfather, James Emmitt Cunningham, served in the Army from 1943 to 1945, fighting on Okinawa during that epic, bloody battle. Another grandfather, Captain Gordon Russell, served in the Army Dental Corps.
Alphonso Pitt Shepherd served in World War I in the Army. Albert Pitt Shepherd served in the Engineering Corps of the Army in World War II. Leland Clower Johnson III served as a Staff Sergeant in the Army in Vietnam. Ray Johnson served as a sergeant in the Army during World War II, in the Philippines. William Leon Stephenson served in the Navy during World War II. Hardin Ervin served as a major during World War II in the European, African, and Middle East campaigns. Samuel Jackson Foose was a captain in the U. S. Army Field Artillery of the 69th Division. He received the Bronze Star during World War II. Claude Cox, Nancy Barrett’s great-great uncle, was in the Army during World War I. Mike Lammons was in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Fred A. Dunn was in the Navy and served in World War II. He was a member of the renowned U. S. Navy band.
There are several Upchurch’s who served: Walter Levi Upchurch served in World War I as a Sergeant in the 90th Division. He was wounded and received the Purple Heart. His son, Walter, Jr., was a Sergeant in the Army during World War II. Harold Upchurch was a Captain in the Signal Corps during World War II, and Clarence Upchurch served in World War II as a Marine. William H. “Sonny” Russell served in the Navy during World War II. Wordney D. Truitt was also a Marine who served on Iwo Jima – “Flags of our Fathers” -- and Roland E. Truitt served in the Navy in Vietnam aboard the USS Ranger, an aircraft carrier operating in the South China Sea off South Vietnam, launching aircraft during Operation “Rolling Thunder” into North Vietnam.
And then there are the Peppers, whose genealogy is filled with men who served: Captain Daniel G. Pepper, Confederate States Army; Captain Louis D. Pepper, Army, Spanish American War; Captain Daniel G. Pepper, Navy, peacetime, Mississippi National Guard and Army, World War I; Daniel G. Pepper, Jr., Mississippi National Guard and Navy Chief Petty Officer, World War II; Major Archibald M. Pepper, South Carolina Militia, Indian wars; Lieutenant Louis D. Pepper, Jr., Army, World War I, and Captain Louis D. Pepper, III, Navy, World War II; Mississippi National Guard and Army, Korean War; and Danny Pepper who served on active duty in the Army and then attained the rank of Brigadier General in the Army National Guard.
Sergeants Billy and Ben Rathell both served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and Sergeant Pete Hager served in the Mississippi National Guard. Emily Povall Lucas served in the American Red Cross in Europe during World War II, and her brother, Allie Stuart Povall, was a lieutenant colonel in the Army Coastal Artillery also during World War II. Their grandfather Cass Oltenburg was a captain in Company K of the 18th Mississippi Infantry during the Civil War, and their brother, Cass Oltenburg Povall, served in the Army during World War I. I served in Vietnam on an amphibious assault ship and then on a rocket ship in the “brown water” Navy.
Floyd Edward Fuller, Jr., fondly known as Eddie, made the ultimate sacrifice while serving as a Corporal in the U. S. Army in Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam. He distinguished himself as a soldier and was awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Army Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
Mentioned earlier, was Wilburn Hooker, who served in the Navy. His brother-in-law, Jack Yates, who is not buried in LOFC – indeed, he is not buried anywhere – served in the Army in that nasty “police action” in Korea. Wilburn Hooker’s cousin, First Lieutenant Nathan Berry “Nat” Hooker, Jr., served in the 9th Infantry Division during World War II. Nat grew up in Lexington, was a member of First Methodist Church, graduated from Lexington High School in 1937, Columbia, Tennessee Military Academy in 1938, and the University of Mississippi in 1942. It is said that many of the students graduating from Ole Miss in that class wore their uniforms under their gowns and removed their gowns with a cheer after receiving their diplomas. Nat was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army and sent to Camp Wheeler near Macon, Georgia for training.
After training, Nat joined the 60th Infantry Regiment of the famed Fighting 9th Division, under General Omar Bradley, commander of the 1st Army. Nat participated in the invasion of North Africa – Operation “Torch” – under the command of General George Patton; the Tunisian Campaigns; the invasion of Sicily – Operation “Husky” -- and at Normandy in Operation “Overlord” in June of 1944. Following Normandy, Nat fought through the hedgerows as the Army broke out from Cherbourg. He died in action at the Bois du Hommet forest near Saint Lo, Normandy. Nat’s commanding officer wrote of him: “Under heavy fire bringing ammunition to his troops, he stopped to remove a fallen tree across the road, disregarding his own personal safety. While doing so he was instantly killed by a German artillery shell. His courage in braving enemy fire to help his comrades showed the highest qualities of devotion to duty. He was a grand soldier, a fine friend, and a devoted American.” Nat was buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. Later, his mother Martha had his remains removed and reinterred in LOFC. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Allie S. Povall, Guest Writer 1
December 7, 1941, wrought a sea change in our little town of Lexington and in the lives of its citizens. Overnight we were transformed from a casual – perhaps sleepy – lifestyle to one in which patriotism surged in every heart. Each of us – old and young, men and women – wanted to do something – something that would help our country win the war.
Our young men and women volunteered for military service or sought work in shipyards and war plants. Their parents planted Victory Gardens or knitted socks for the soldier boys. But as Fifth Graders, kids my age felt left out. We were simply too little to be useful. What could we do?
The answer came a month or so after Pearl Harbor when the Red Fox Den of Cub Scout Pack 64 (I think that’s the right number!) gathered at Sonny Russell’s house for our monthly meeting. As our Den Mother, Mrs. Russell had the thankless task of guiding us along the scouting trail – and of maintaining order at our noisy meetings! That afternoon, she gathered us in a semi-circle and unfolded an official-looking letter.
“I am pleased to inform you,” she read from the letter, “that our Home Front Project will be to collect all the scrap iron in Lexington and stack it beside the street. A truck will come by once a week and haul it to the railroad siding near the depot. A train will then transport it to a steel mill where it will be melted and made into cannon, machine guns, jeeps and giant tanks.”
“Wow!” Someone shouted. We all jumped up and ran around, hollering like crazy. At last! We could now participate in the exciting business of winning the war!
Quickly, Mrs. Russell assigned areas to scavenge and we dashed off, neat blue Cub uniforms and all, to begin the dirty task of finding and dragging in the rusting detritus of a century of civilization. We were motivated by patriotism, of course – and by a tantalizing prize: the Den that collected the most scrap iron would receive tickets to a Saturday matinee at the Star picture show.
Fortunately, the Industrial Revolution never quite reached Lexington. Thus, we were not confronted by giant stamping machines or hulking steam engines or other massive machinery too heavy for Cub Scouts to handle. Instead, we mostly found rusting shovels, hoes, rakes and axe blades, all discarded by owners too shiftless to replace the broken handles.
All of these, plus legions of bottomless tin buckets and misshapen bed springs and twisted coils of wire, we dragged to pick-up points along the streets of Lexington. The competition to collect the most pounds of scrap iron was fierce and unrelenting. The Red Fox Den was neck and neck with the Bobcat Den. One week we would surge ahead; the next week the Bobcats would regain the lead. If only we could find a really big, heavy piece of junk
We struck pay dirt one cold Saturday afternoon in late January. Johnny Klonaris and I were poking through a mass of dead blackberry vines enshrouding a sagging tool shed near the planer mill. We had been searching most of that cold gray day and our gloveless fingers were blue and numb.
“Let’s go,” I said. “We can finish lookin’ here next Saturday.” Johnny nodded and thrust his poking stick one last time into the brittle briars. A metallic thud sounded from somewhere below. “Holy cow!” he hollered. “That sounds like sump’n big!”
Forgetting our aching fingers, we pulled cautiously at the nasty, razor sharp briars. In minutes, we had uncovered a treasure – the rusting carcass of a T-Model Ford! The motor and transmission had been salvaged decades before and nothing remained of the wooden wheels but rotten stubs of spokes radiating from the hubs. The interior was a shamble; the upholstery had long since rotted away. The looping coils of honeysuckle vines and briars embraced every knob, pedal and lever. But the chassis, the body, the fenders, the running boards, even the steering wheel, were still there.
“Golleeeee!” Johnny shouted. “This must weigh a ton! We’ll beat those Bobcats for sure!” There was no doubt about it. If we could drag the old car to the collection point, the Red Fox Den would be triumphant.
The next day was a Saturday. Bright and early, the Red Fox Den, plus most of our fathers and some of our mothers, gathered at the briar patch to collect the old car. Tying a rope to the front axle, we dragged the T-Model to the collection point, bumping and scraping along the streets of Lexington to the cheers of bystanders and the yapping of countless dogs. When the last scrap was weighed and the competition ended, the Red Fox Den was declared the winner. In all the years since, I have never enjoyed a movie as much as that next Saturday’s matinee!
Parham Williams, Guest Writer 2
Thank you to our guest writers, Al Povall and Parham Williams, for sharing the heartwarming remembrances of our veterans, both living and dead, and the charming recollections of life in Lexington during World War II. This year as we observe and celebrate Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 11, may we remember the sacrifice and bravery of our veterans. But for their self-sacrifice, we would not enjoy the many freedoms that we too often take for granted. If you would like to honor a veteran in your family that is buried in LOFC, please consider donating in their honor.
Or if you prefer, you may send a check made payable to LOFC, Post Office Box 1213, Lexington, MS 39095.
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
2 Parham Williams was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force in May 1953. After completing Ole Miss Law School and admitted to the Bar in 1954, he was called to active duty. He served as Assistant Staff Judge Advocate in the Procurement Law Division, Office of Staff Judge Advocate, Air Material Command at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He was promoted to First Lieutenant and discharged from active duty in 1956. In September 1965 he was honorably discharged from inactive reserve duty.