Names of war dead live in community
Last updated 5/23/2023 at 9:08pm
Memorial Day is set aside as a special day of tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military. But in Orange County, remembrances of those lost in wars is part of our everyday life, though some may not know those tributes.
The special day is rooted in the first years after the Civil War as loved ones decorated the graves of the tens of thousands of soldiers who died during the conflict, which killed more Americans than any other war.
Even though the states that had been in the confederacy did not use the last day in May for remembrance, the day became accepted nationwide after World War I. Congress made Memorial Day an official holiday in 1971 to be the last Monday of May to allow for a three-day weekend.
That day though is more than a time for store sales and celebrations for the beginning of summer.
In Orange, the Lloyd Grubbs American Legion Post on Green Avenue pays tribute to a young man from Orange who was killed during the first World War. The 1986 book "Orange: Gateway to Texas" by the late Dr. Howard Williams reports Grubbs was killed in action on October 2, 1918.
The book lists 16 men from Orange County who died in that war, with some listed as a "domestic death." Those were attributed to the Great Influenza epidemic that swept through military barracks and spread across the world.
World War II saw a huge population boom in Orange with the shipbuilding industry, but the county sent off hundreds of "boys" to fight, including many who did not return.
The first three to die were Lt. William Tilley, Donald Manley, and Colburn. When the defense department erected some 5,000 houses for the shipyard workers in an area called Riverside, three elementary schools were named for the three men.
Tilley was the last of those schools to stand and served as the original home 50 years ago of a branch of Lamar Tech (now University), which evolved into Lamar State College Orange. The then-new college was nicknamed "Tilley Tech."
Today, LSCO honors its roots, and the late lieutenant, as its gator mascot is named "Tilley."
The old West Orange school district honored Carl Godwin when it built its first high school in the early 1950s. Godwin was the first young man from that community who was killed in action. The Carl Godwin Auditorium served the campus and the community, becoming the home to dozens of concerts and shows.
Though the school campus was sold to a private owner a decade ago, the name Carl Godwin is still prominently displayed on the front of the building along Western Avenue.
After World War II, the Baby Boom generation was born and their parents needed housing. Local developer V.J. Zeto built a number of subdivisions around the county. The Charlemont subdivision, built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, honored some of those lost in the war.
Cul-de-sacs in the back of the subdivision are named for William Tilley, Donald Manley, Carl Godwin, John Baker and Wilson Maxwell.
The Vietnam War came in the 1960s. Sgt. Emmett Harvey Horn of Vidor was the first Orange County officer to die in Vietnam. He was an Army Green Beret and died at the age of 29 in December 1964. He was mentioned in a song on the hit album featuring by Barry Sadler “Ballads of The Green Beret.” Horn was a 1954 graduate of Vidor High and the VFW Post in Vidor is named in his honor.
Vidor's Veterans Park has a tribute wall to the 28 members of the e military lost during the Vietnam War. The late Jerry Hatch, a veteran of that war and a 1964 Stark High graduate, led the way to raise money for the tribute.
Gatch also compiled a booklet with biographies and information on those local men who died in that war. The booklet is at the Orange and Vidor libraries.
In addition, a memorial to the Vietnam War dead is also on the front lawn of the Orange County Courthouse.