Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"The Horse Soldiers" (1959)

(Note: All stills from the movie are courtesy of United Artists, an MGM company, Hollywood, California)

A scene from The Horse Soldiers movie (1959).

Mississippi state historical marker for Jefferson Military College in Washington. It served as Jefferson Military Academy in The Horse Soldiers. (Credit:

Besides being a classic John Ford-John Wayne motion picture, many Civil War enthusiasts consider The Horse Soldiers (1959) to be the quintessential Hollywood movie depicting the epic struggle between the North and South. Directed by John Ford, and starring John Wayne, William Holden, and Constance Towers, the screenplay is loosely based on both Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s raid in 1863 through Mississippi, and on the novel, The Horse Soldiers, by Harold Sinclair.

Merry Christmas 1958 from some of the cast/crew of The Horse Soldiers. With cadets at JMA are Hollywood actors/director (L-R, sitting/kneeling) Anna Lee, director John Ford, and Constance Towers. Standing (L-R) are William Holden and John Wayne. (Credit: John Oye and United Artists)

On the set (L-R): William Holden, John Ford, and John Wayne.

A poignant and entertaining scene in the movie is the charge of the cadet corps of Jefferson Military Academy in Washington, Mississippi, a scene inspired by the charge of the Virginia Military Institute cadets at New Market, Virginia, on May 15, 1864. The Jefferson cadets, ranging in age from nine to sixteen, are led by their aged, lame, Reverend-Superintendent, played by veteran actor Basil Ruysdael, who walks with a cane in one hand and the Holy Bible in the other. The charge never actually happened, however; the school was closed in 1863, when occupied by Union forces. Jefferson Military Academy is not even mentioned in the novel. Scenes for the movie were embellished: for example, while Grierson’s raiders actually destroyed the railroad and supply depot at Newton Station, Mississippi, the scene where the Confederates detrain and charge down the street to their total destruction, never occurred. The producers decided to include the cadet sequence as a tribute to the Virginia Military Institute, and the scenes provide both a humorous and heartrending diversion for the movie viewer. The charge of the Jefferson Military Academy cadets was filmed on a farm outside of Natchez.

Marching off to war at Jefferson Military Academy.

Advancing for the charge on the Union cavalry.

Another image with some cadets. (L-R, center, standing) William Holden, Constance Towers, and John Wayne.

Scene after taking the Confederate battery at the bridge.

Incorporated by an act of the General Assembly of the Mississippi Territory in 1802, Jefferson College, named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, was the first institution of higher learning in Mississippi. Despite years of financial difficulties, Jefferson College opened its doors as a preparatory school in 1811, and became a full-fledged college in 1817, although it maintained its primary and secondary classes. Ten year-old Jefferson Davis, later president of the Confederacy, attended in 1818. Naturalist John James Audubon, who painted in the Natchez area, sent his sons to Jefferson College. The two most prominent buildings on campus, both built in the Federal architectural style, included the East Wing (1819) and the West Wing (1839). These were multi-purpose facilities which housed offices, classrooms and living space for both faculty and students. In 1830, the college purchased the nearby Methodist Church, site of the 1817 Mississippi statehood convention, for additional space. At the end of the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau utilized the campus during the summer of 1865. By the fall of that year, the college’s Board of Trustees regained control of the school and managed to reopen Jefferson College in 1866. Becoming Jefferson Military College in 1893, the school was actually a military preparatory school. As was true with other American military preparatory schools, JMC attracted a number of cadets from Latin American countries. Jefferson Military College served the state and region well until declining enrollment closed its doors for good in 1964 - just six years after the filming of The Horse Soldiers in the fall of 1958. Jefferson College had operated as an educational institution from 1811 until 1964. It is now incorporated as Historic Jefferson College, an official Mississippi state historic site.

In addition to The Horse Soldiers (1959), several Hollywood movies and television programs have been filmed at Historic Jefferson College: Huckleberry Finn (1973), Mistress of Paradise (1981), North and South (the 1985 television mini-series whereby Jefferson College became the United States Military Academy at West Point), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1992).

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Historic Jefferson College is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Restoration projects, completed in 1977 and 1984, have returned the college’s fa├žade to its antebellum appearance. These projects were partially funded by Friends of Jefferson College, a nonprofit corporation. Alumni, former faculty and staff, and friends of the school are organized as The Jefferson Military College Foundation.

Historic Jefferson College today in Washington, Mississippi. The campus has been restored to its antebellum appearance. (Credit:

MMI Family traveling in the area are encouraged to visit the historic campus on fabled US Highway 61 in Washington, Mississippi, just outside of Natchez. Also, check out their web site at Historic Jefferson College is truly an inspiring step back in time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two Old School Alums

My friend, Ward Calhoun, Records Manager of the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History in Meridian, Mississippi, has just published a new book through the Lauderdale County Archives: THE CARTER AND CRUMPTON FAMILIES OF MISSISSIPPI AND ALABAMA: A Narrative and Photographic History.

The 194-page spiral-bound volume highlights two remarkable families with Marion, MMI & Judson College connections. The photographic collection of the families pictured in the book is truly outstanding, providing a wonderful look at two white upper class families in Mississippi and Alabama around the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Two notable MMI alumni highlighted in the book are Thomas Clay (T. C.) Carter, Jr., MMI 1908, and William Cochran Crumpton, MMI 1889. Yes, I’ve written about Carter before. You’ll remember that he attended MMI (1906-1908) and the University of Virginia before enlisting for service in World War I. As acting company commander of the 320th Machine Gun Battalion, 1LT Carter was killed in 1918 in the Argonne Forest while checking for enemy gun emplacements. He was buried nearby. In 1921, his remains were removed to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. T. C. Carter never married. The American Legion Post # 21 in Meridian, Mississippi, is named in his honor. They also have the American flag which covered his casket at Arlington.

(Note: All images courtesy of Ward Calhoun and the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Meridian, Mississippi.)

Thomas Clay (T. C.) Carter, Jr.

Carter’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

William C. Crumpton attended MMI prior to T. C. Carter, serving as a cadet company commander in 1889. He then went to Howard College in Birmingham, and finally graduated from Cornell University in 1896. Crumpton married T. C. Carter’s sister, Mamie, a 1893 graduate of Judson College in Marion. A prominent lawyer, staunch prohibitionist, State Senator, member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, and Governor B. B. Comer’s Judge Advocate General, Will Crumpton and Mamie Carter Crumpton lived out their lives together in Evergreen, Alabama. Will died of a heart attack at age 43 in 1915, and Mamie lived to be 102 as a matriarch of the Carter-Crumpton Families, passing in 1978. Will Crumpton is buried with the Crumpton family in the Marion City Cemetery across from Judson College, and Mamie is buried with the Carters in Magnolia Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi.

Will Crumpton as Judge Advocate General on Alabama Governor B. B. Comer’s staff.

The Crumpton home in Evergreen, Alabama.

Grave of Will Crumpton in the Marion (AL) Cemetery.

This very interesting book by Ward Calhoun is for sale by the Lauderdale County Archives in Meridian, Mississippi. We thank Ward for donating copies of his book to the Alabama Military Hall of Honor, MMI Archives, and Judson College.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This is SPARTA!

Yes, I borrowed that line from the graphic novel/movie, 300, the way-over-the-top and fanciful depiction of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, Greece, in 480BC. Marion Military Institute has always prided itself on providing a Spartan-like existence based upon the Greek ideal that an active mind functions best in a sound body, so I thought you might like to travel to the source via a wonderful website on the Internet.

This famous bronze of a Spartan warrior is in the J. P. Morgan Collection at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT. (Credit: Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, and the photographer, Joseph Szaszfai)

As a historian, I have long been fascinated by the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, chief rival to Athens. No, I’ve never been to Greece including Sparta and Thermopylae, but it’s high on my future travel list.

I was thrilled to come upon a wonderful website for everything Sparta and Thermopylae at Created and maintained by John Trikeriotis, it is a splendid tour-de-force from a knowledgeable Spartan buff. John and I have recently become friends, and I look forward to further updates on his website.

Modern Sparta, on the River Eurotas, surrounds the few ancient ruins and is enclosed by the Taygetos range and Mt. Parnon on the Peloponnese. (Credit:

John is in contact with all the major scholars on Spartan history. They have formed what is known as the “Leonidas Expeditions” which make periodic research trips to Sparta and Thermopylae to investigate and explore new leads and discoveries at the sites.

A painting by Louis S. Glanzman in National Geographic’s Greece and Rome depicting Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermopylae. (Credit: National Geographic Society and the artist, Louis S. Glanzman)

Thermopylae today with the modern highway built on the ancient shoreline of the Gulf of Malia. (Credit:

Again, a great site if you have an interest in ancient Sparta and the Battle of Thermopylae where King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans – supported by other allied troops – died to the last man protecting this crucial pass and buying time for the Greeks to mobilize against Xerxes and the Persians.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MMI Archives: More This and That

When Shivers McCollum, Jr., H’45, JC ’46, attended the Board of Advisors meeting here at MMI in September, he donated a couple of items to the MMI Archives:

A Western Union message stating that MI has been selected as an Honor Military School for 1942. (Credit: Shivers McCollum and the MMI Archives)

The MI Cadet Band in 1922-1923 included Shivers’ father, O. Shivers McCollum, Sr., H ‘21, JC ‘23. He is playing baritone behind the trombone player in the first column on the left. That baritone, lovingly restored and donated by Shivers, is on display in the MMI Archives. (Credit: Shivers McCollum, the 1923-1924 MI catalogue, and the MMI Archives).

The MI Cadet Band in 1923. (Credit: Shivers McCollum, the 1923-1924 MI catalogue, and the MMI Archives)

Here is a page from the H. O. Murfee Papers entitled “Aid to Howard College and Marion Institute From Citizens of Marion.” A good “Town and Gown” relationship has always been crucial to the survival of the Institute:

A good “Town and Gown” relationship has always been crucial to the survival of the Institute. (Credit: H. O. Murfee Papers, MMI Archives)

Check out Physical Training (PT) in the Army-Navy Course at Marion Institute during the 1920s-30s. (Credit: MMI Archives)

PT in the Army-Navy Course at Marion Institute during the 1920s-30s. (Credit: MMI Archives)

Finally, as a follow-up to my blog on The White Knights, here are two images of them in performance:

The White Knights on Alumni Weekend, April 18-19, 1997. (Credit: MMI Alumni Office, MMI Archives)

The White Knights perform on Parents’ Weekend, October 16-17, 2009. (Credit: SCPO Robert Duke, MMI)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hal Kemp and his Orchestra: The Sweet Sound of Success

During the 1920s and 1930s, Hal Kemp and his Orchestra reigned supreme both at home and abroad in live performances, on the radio, and in the movies. Read on about this Marion boy who scaled the heights of popular music, and whose premature death silenced “the sweetest sound this side of Heaven" (apology to Guy Lombardo).

Born James Hal Kemp in Marion, Alabama, on March 21, 1904, the future orchestra and band leader was the son of T. D. Kemp, Sr., and Leila Rush Kemp, a poet. Hal began his musical training playing piano at the Bonita Theater in Marion. He probably attended Marion Institute (MMI) for at least one year, 1917-1918, as a Cadet Kemp is listed as playing clarinet in the Cadet Band. Hal’s family then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he enrolled in Central High School, graduating in 1921. While at Central, Hal formed a five-piece band, The Merrymakers. In addition to piano and clarinet, he also studied trumpet and alto sax.

The MI Cadet Band, c. 1918. (Credit: 1918-1919 MI Catalogue, MMI Archives)

Roster for the MI Cadet Band, 1917-1918. A Cadet Kemp played clarinet. (Credit: 1917-1918 MI Catalogue, MMI Archives)

Entering the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1922, Hal Kemp immersed himself in extracurricular activities including forming a jazz group, The Carolina Club Orchestra, which recorded for Okeh Records and which toured Europe during the summers. Kemp also formed a smaller seven-man combo which became the forerunner of his later professional orchestra.

Hal Kemp’s Carolina Club Orchestra at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Credit: Chapel Hill Memories,

Turning the Carolina Club Orchestra over to fellow UNC student, Kay Kyser, later another top band leader, Kemp (who didn’t graduate from UNC) based his new orchestra in New York City and toured Europe and the United States. The band gained the attention and support of band leader Fred Waring and Prince George of England, later King George VI.

Two publicity shots of Hal Kemp:

Shot One. (Credit:

Shot Two. (Credit:

In 1932, Kemp’s jazz orchestra settled in at the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, where they changed styles and perfected their sound as a “sweet orchestra.” Their new sound was a hit both at the Blackhawk and on the radio and, by 1934, Hal Kemp was ready to take the band back on the road. He again turned over the bandstand at the Blackhawk to Kay Kyser.

Kemp’s orchestra had a sweet, smooth, and sensuous sound with interesting musical arrangements which captivated audiences both at home and abroad. The male and female vocalists – from Skinnay Ennis and Bob Allen to Maxine Gray and Janet Blair - were quite popular both with live audiences and on their RCA Victor recordings.

Hal Kemp with vocalist Maxine Gray (later, Lawrence Welk’s first “champagne lady.”) (Credit: Old-Time Radio,

Hal Kemp’s last vocalist, Janet Blair, later a popular movie and television star. (Credit: New York Times,

The Hal Kemp Orchestra scored a number of hit songs including four No. 1 tunes – “There’s a Small Hotel,” “When I’m With You,” “This Year’s Kisses,” and “Where or When.” Other popular tunes included “Got a Date With an Angel,” “Lamplight,” “Heart of Stone,” and “Three Little Fishes.”

Kemp’s orchestra was also the first band featured in a motion picture, Radio City Revels (1938).

In 1932, Hal Kemp married Texas debutante, Betsy Slaughter. They had two children. The couple divorced in 1938, Kemp later marrying Martha Stephenson in 1939.

In 1939, also, Kemp served as guest conductor of The Chicago Symphony. Tragically, on December 19, 1940, while driving from Los Angeles to a gig in San Francisco, Hal Kemp hit a car head-on. He died two days later from his injuries in Madera, California. He was 36. Attempts were made to keep his orchestra going, but it just wasn’t to be and the Hal Kemp Orchestra passed into history forever.

The Best of Hal Kemp and his Orchestra. (Credit:

Hal Kemp was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992, and he is also in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. His papers are housed in the Southern Historical Collection in the Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mary Ward Brown: Keeper of the Flame

Mary Ward Brown – known locally as “Mary T.” (Thomas is her middle name, after her father) – is recognized as one of Alabama’s finest writers of fiction. In fact, at age 92, she is probably the state’s most distinguished working writer today. Her latest work was published this year!

Mary Ward Brown. (Credit: Jerry Siegel)

Born (1917)and raised in Hamburg, Alabama, near Marion in Perry County, Mary Ward Brown did not taste success as a modern fiction writer until she was in her sixties. By any standard, she is a major writer of fiction, her works having garnered some of the top national and state literary awards: the PEN/Hemingway Award, Harper Lee Award, Lillian Smith Book Award, Hillsdale Award for Fiction, and two Alabama Author Awards, among others.

Mary T. (Credit: Mississippi Public Broadcasting/Alabama Arts Council)

With the exception of a short sojourn in Auburn, Alabama, Mary T. has lived on her parents’ farm in Hamburg all of her life. She graduated from Perry County High School in Marion, where she edited the school newspaper, and from Judson College (1938), where she again edited the school newspaper, and where she studied English and Journalism. In 1939, she married Charles Kirtley Brown and moved to Auburn, Alabama, where her husband worked in public relations at Auburn University. Their son, Kirtley Ward Brown, MMI H'61, a prominent Marion/Perry County lawyer and law instructor here at MMI, was born in Auburn in 1942. When Mary’s father died some years later, the Browns moved back to Hamburg to manage the large family farm. Mary T. still lives and writes there today.

Although she had a few short stories published in the 1950s, Mary T. stopped writing to concentrate on her family and running the farm. Following her husband’s death in 1970 from lung cancer, she began writing again, publishing in various national magazines.

In 1986, Tongues of Flame (E. P. Dutton), a collection of short stories, was published to wide literary and public acclaim.

In the mid-1980s, one of her short stories, “The Cure,” was included in an anthology of American and Russian writers. Traveling with this project, Mary T. toured the Soviet Union.

A second collection of stories was published in 2002. It Wasn’t All Dancing and other Stories was published by the University of Alabama Press some twenty-three years after her initial literary success. Her third work, Fanning the Spark: A Memoir, was published by Alabama in 2009.

Mary T.’s third book , Fanning the Spark: A Memoir (Alabama, 2009).
(Credit: The University of Alabama Press)

Mary Ward Brown’s literary themes and interests are usually set in the South during the 1950s to the early 1970s. They reflect the impact of societal changes on ordinary individuals including the persistence of racism and the unique role of religion in the South.

Mary T. signing her book. (Credit: Alabama Libraries)

A point of reference: All of the Brown Family have worked at MMI. Kirtley, MMI H'61, of course, teaches law at the Institute. His late father, Charles Kirtley Brown, worked with student publications including The Skirmisher, the cadet newspaper. Mary T. worked with John Moore (Ms. Woody’s husband) in the guidance and counseling office. Kirtley Brown’s wife, Susannah, also worked in the MMI Library with Ms. Woody. Finally, Mary T.'s nephew, Sheldon "Buzzie" Fitts, is a former MMI instructor.

In March, 2010, The Lyceum Council at MMI will host a celebration of the works of Mary Ward Brown with the presentation of the play, Ashes of Roses, in the MMI Chapel. Working in concert with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Perry County Historical and Preservation Society, and other local organizations, a significant Arts Event highlighting Literature, Theater, Art and Music will be presented.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stylin' With The White Knights

In the fall of 1950, William “Bill” Walker, a veteran of the U. S. Army, enrolled at Marion Military Institute. During the occupation of Berlin, Germany, after World War II, Walker had served in the “Berlin Honor Guard,” a crack U. S. Army drill team under General Lucius D. Clay’s command. With Berlin partitioned by the Allied countries of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States (West Berlin), and the Soviets in East Berlin, “The Berlin Honor Guard” had to be the “best of the best,” the “elite” among all the international military units present. The unit worked diligently every day toward achieving that goal.

When Bill Walker arrived at MMI and was assigned to Old South Barracks (now Lovelace Hall), he told his cadet company commander and platoon leader – Cadets Steve Finch and Gene Hyche - about his drill team experience in Germany. He also offered to assist with the company’s drill. Following protracted discussions, the idea gelled with these three cadets to organize and develop a similar crack precision drill team at MMI, one that would also strive to be the “best of the best” among the nation’s military colleges and schools.

After circulating the idea throughout the Corps of Cadets for interest, Cadets Finch and Hyche approached the Commandant, COL Paul B. Robinson (later, MMI president) with their plan. Robinson told them that Finch was going to be the Cadet Battalion Commander, thus, he would not have time to participate in the drill team. Finally, after refining their plan, COL Robinson approved it.

When tryouts were held, some 50-60 cadets were expected to participate. However, nearly a third of the Corps showed up, each cadet vying to prove that he was the best. During tryouts, they drilled 3-5 days a week, 2-4 hours a day for more than two weeks. When the smoke finally cleared, more than 40 cadets were selected for the first unit which took the name, “The White Knights.” Cadets Gene Hyche and Bill Walker became the co-founders in 1950, with Hyche serving as the first White Knights Commander. The White Knights were intent on stylin,’ as Cadet Hyche called it.

COL Ellis Marsh of the ROTC Department assigned Sgt. Ralph Glendening, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division and of the Normandy Invasion airborne assault, to oversee the White Knights. Army Sgt. Tom Hamilton, a Canadian and a former British Commando in World War II, was assigned to assist Glendening. Later, CPT Ben Marshall, an Infantry officer who had been a fighter pilot in World War II, was appointed advisor.

The first White Knights unit from the 1951 Orange and Black, MMI’s yearbook. (Credit: MMI Archives)

Uniforms for the White Knights included white helmets, white ascots, white gloves, and white leggings. The standard M-1 rifle, assigned to the Corps, was the first rifle used. However, when COL James T. Mufee II, MMI’s president, was approached for $1,000 to outfit the unit, he denied the request because Murfee doubted the longevity of the White Knights past more than a couple of years or so. Gradually, however, he warmed to the unit and became a proud supporter.

Cover photograph from the “Alabama Sunday Magazine” of The Montgomery Advertiser-Journal, Sunday, May 31, 1970.

The first performance of the White Knights took place at a football game in Bessemer, Alabama, but their first real test came when they performed at an Air Show at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery - right after the performance of the crack Air Force Drill Team from Washington, D. C.! Having added taps to their boots, the White Knights performed a stunning silent drill which, by all accounts, “smoked” the Air Force Drill Team, a fact even acknowledged by their advisor! The White Knights were stylin’ now!

A White Knights parade performance in Montgomery, Alabama (no date). (Credit: MMI Archives)

Over the years, the White Knights established an enviable state and national reputation as a precision drill team of the first order. Among their numerous appearances representing Marion Military Institute and the State of Alabama, the White Knights performed at the Indianapolis 500, the Sugar Bowl, and in the United States Air Force Academy Drill Competition. They also make frequent instate appearances at the annual Veterans Day Parade in Birmingham, and at the Mardi Gras in Mobile.

Performing in front of The Chapel at MMI (no date). (Credit: MMI Archives)

The White Knights celebrated their 50th Anniversary at MMI on Alumni Day, April 24, 1999. By then, some 900 cadets had participated in the White Knights saga. By Proclamation of the then MMI Board of Trustees, “each White Knight, past and present, is hereby designated ALUMNUS OF THE YEAR, 1999.”

The 60th Anniversary of the White Knights is coming up, and a fund-raising campaign to assist the unit is currently underway.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Only a Paper Moon, Addie Pray!

The Wednesday, September 9th edition of The Marion Times-Standard ran this image and caption of a gentleman from Surrey, England, who was visiting briefly in Marion and the area. Enthralled by the 1973 Hollywood movie, Paper Moon, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, and starring the father-daughter team of Ryan and Tatum O’Neil, Madeline Kahn, and Randy Quaid, this Englishman was traveling the country visiting sites depicted in the movie, including Marion!

From The Marion Times-Standard, Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

Now, like many of you, I saw Paper Moon (filmed in black and white) when it first came out and I loved it. But, the movie was set on the Great Plains of Kansas and western Missouri, not in Alabama!

DVD cover for Paper Moon, originally released by Paramount Pictures in 1973.

Turns out, the movie was adapted from the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown of Birmingham, Alabama. The novel is initially set in Alabama, but expands – via the main character’s travels – into Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. Alabama towns reportedly mentioned in this area include Selma, Hamburg, Marion, Brent, and Centreville. Supposedly, a scam scene at a Marion bank is included.

Addie Pray was first published in 1971, was adapted for the movie Paper Moon in 1973, and was reprinted in 2002 as Paper Moon: A Novel.
Narrated by 11 year-old con-artist Addie Pray, an orphan, who travels with scam/confidence man “Long Boy” Moses (he is one of three possible fathers of Addie), the pair strike out across the Deep South during the Depression-era 1930s trying their “luck” in every town, nook and cranny.

”Long Boy” Moses and Addie Pray (Ryan and Tatum O’Neil). (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Tatum O’Neil (actually, only 9 years-old when she played the part of Addie Pray) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1974, and she remains the youngest person ever to win a competitive Academy Award. Her father, veteran actor Ryan O’Neil, played the part of “Long Boy” Moses. Miss Trixie Delight was played by Madeline Kahn, and Randy Quaid played Leroy.

Ten years-old in 1974, Tatum O’Neil remains the youngest person to win a competitive Academy Award. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Madeline Kahn as Miss Trixie Delight. (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

The author, Joe David Brown, who died in 1976, was born in Birmingam, Alabama. He worked initially for The Birmingam Post, later the New York Daily News, and finally for Time and Life magazines, being stationed in New Delhi, Paris, London, and Moscow. Two of his other books, Stars in My Crown (1947) and Kings Go Forth (1956), were also made into movies.

During World War II, Brown served in the Army Air Corps, and as a member of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, was one of the first Americans to parachute into Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, and was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre with palm.

Author Joe David Brown in uniform. (Credit: 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team website)

So, the next time we watch Paper Moon, a classic movie, we’ll know the story behind the story. And, like the song says, “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Supporting 1LT Dan Berschinski, MMI 2003

In August, 2009, 1LT Dan Berschinski, an AOG (West Point’s Association of Graduates) scholar at MMI from 2002-2003, was seriously wounded in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device while his men were securing a village. Dan lost both of his legs, and his left arm was shattered. A member of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 17th Regiment, Dan is convalescing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Army 1LT Dan Berschinski in Afghanistan. (Credit: Dan Berschinski’s website)

A native of Peachtree City, Georgia, where he graduated from McIntosh High School in 2002, Dan spent a year at MMI preparing for the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated in the Class of 2007.

Dan as an AOG scholar here at MMI. (Credit: 2003 Orange and Black, MMI’s yearbook, MMI Archives)

Two more images from the 2003 yearbook:

Friends in Peachtree City and Fayette County, Georgia, have set up a website to support Dan. Please access from

This blog indicates that Dan Berschinski’s brigade has been taking horrific casualties outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan, and that a number of these men are with Dan at Walter Reed, some even more seriously wounded than Dan. The blog also mentions another Peachtree City resident, SGT Shawn P. McCloskey, a Green Beret in the Special Forces, who was killed in September.

Undaunted, the blog states that Dan is upbeat and positive, that he has charmed his nurses, and that he greets visitors to his hospital room with a friendly, “Hey, what’s up?”

My thanks to LTC David Bauer for bringing Dan's story/plight to my attention.