Brigadier General T. L. Futch Parade Field
(And other information about this subject)
A personal note from Brian V. Brunner('64)
- 1990 -
During the open session of the 1990 alumni meeting I asked, with encouragement and nudging from Phillip M. Potts('63), if anything on the campus was ever going to named in General Futch's honor. Colonel Wesley Smith said no plans were in the works.
At that same meeting one of my classmates, Douglas C. Dromey('64) was elected president of the LWMA Alumni Association for 1990-91 school year.
I found out General Futch was still alive on August 17, 1990, when I was on a family trip to Asheville, NC. We stopped at a motel in Hendersonville, NC on the way back. I knew this was the General's hometown and, to my great surprise, his name was still in the local phone book! I called the number listed and talked to his daughter, Mrs. Katy Gardner. She said that General Futch was in nursing home and she kept his name in phone book in case anyone from his army days wanted to look him up. She gave me directions to the nursing home, and I went over there the next morning on our way out of town. I was unable to talk to him because he had suffered a stroke sometime in the past. I did tell him who I was and I saluted him when I left the room. Katy had told me that some days he was able to comprehend the world around him. That was August 18, 1990 and I assume that I was the last of his former LWMA cadets to see him alive.
After the 1990-91 school year started I wrote a letter to Colonel Smith telling him about my visit with the General. Colonel Smith published that letter in the "Alumni News" section of December 1990 issue of the Sentinel.
Sometime after I wrote that letter, Doug Dromey('64) called me at home and said that Colonel Smith, the Board of Trustees, and some of the alumni thought that naming something after General Futch was a great idea. Doug then asked me to think of what we could apply his name to.
That was a tough assignment! Almost every building on the campus already had a name, except the dining hall and to name that building after General Futch was not an option in my opinion. It just did not fit. The new(1985) headquarters building would have been an ideal memorial except that it already had the "Russell Hall - 1960" plaque on it from the old HQ building. Besides the Russell Foundation had contributed a large portion of funds to build the new HQ building. I thought about the CQ room, or the Commandant's Office, but they seemed just too small to name after a man who had played such a large part in getting Lyman Ward Military Academy off the ground in the 1960's.
Then, in my mind's eye I placed myself on the parade field and looked up from left to right across the hill of the campus, but nothing came to mind. I seemed to look about at the drill field, trying to think of something. And then it came to me. That was it! The Parade/Drill Field! General Futch spent almost as much time on that drill field as he did in his office in the old Russell Hall! The next day I called Doug to tell him, and he liked the idea too.
Some days later Doug called me again to let me know Colonel Smith thought it was a good idea also.
- 1991 -
Doug then asked me to make a motion at the 1991 LWMA Alumni meeting for us to suggest to the Board of Trustees that the parade field be dedicated and named for General Futch. In the motion we were also to ask that the members of the Alumni Association fund the purchase of a marker and have it installed on the brick wall of the reviewing stand.
Well, I made the motion, but somewhat overcome by the memory of the General and all that he had done for me and everyone else who knew him, I choked up, and so, I did not do a very good job in telling everyone about General Futch and the monument. Fortunately, Colonel Smith jumped up to help me out and the motion carried with no objections.
Colonel Smith then designed the monument and had it built! The granite stone was placed at the base of the reviewing stand. The company that created the monument had looked at the reviewing stand and said that a brass plaque mounted on the wall of the stand would not work. It would have been too hard to secure it to the bricks and mortar without damaging the structure of the stand. So Colonel Smith selected the granite stone pictured above and below. He worried that the school's large lawn mowers might damage the stone, so he had bricks from the old Russell Hall, where General Futch's office had been located, placed around the stone to protect it. Nice touch, I thought.
The monument was put in place during the summer of 1991. In August of that year I went to the school and took some photographs of it. I sent them to Mrs. Katy Gardner as soon as I could. She said the General saw the pictures and understood what we were doing. That was great, and I wanted everyone to know that fact. I tried to get Katy to come down for a dedication at Homecoming, but she could not make it.
Then in the fall of the 1991-92 school year Colonel Smith sent out a letter to the alumni asking for funds.
Here's a list from a Sentinel article printed in 1992 of those contributed to the fund by class:
(Plus one we know who was left off the list.)
Note: This may seem a small number of alumni, but they covered the cost of the monument completely and later contributions were turned away.
- 1992 -
Then on January 18, 1992 General Futch died, just one day short of his 97th birthday. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington with full military honors. I passed that bad news along to Colonel Smith. He then asked me to try and have someone from the Futch family come down to dedicate the parade field on Parents - Military - Alumni Day on May 2, 1992.
Katy said she would be unable to come, but that her sister, Ellen, and her husband, Colonel Fred Turner, USA Ret. would come.
All the arrangements for the memorial and the dedication were made and everything came off well. Ellen told me afterward that she really enjoyed the parade. She said she had seen many parades in her life, but that was the first one she saw from the reviewing stand as the guest of honor.
A gift was also given to the Futch family during the dedication ceremony. Douglas C. Dromey('64) had designed and purchased, with his own funds, a large wood and brass wall plaque for the family as a memento of the event. It had at the top a picture of Tallapoosa Hall and these words below:
"Presented to The Family of BG T. L. Futch,
Commandant - Lyman Ward Military Academy, 1959-1967.
BG T. L. Futch was an Inspiration, a Teacher of Life and a Leader of Men.
As a Guidepost in the world, he touched each one of our lives.
Thank You, General Futch."
Another classmate of mine, in fact a former roommate, Robert C. Bell('64), then the President of the Alumni Association in 1992, assisted Mrs. Ellen Turner with the unveiling of the monument.
Dedication Day - 5/2/1992
- 1993 -
In the July 1993 issue of "Assembly" , the alumni association newsletter of The United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, there was a nice article about our parade field dedication. It was submitted by Ida Calhoun (Futch) Scott, daughter of General Futch. She is Katy Gardner's and Ellen Turner's half sister. The article also had a photo of Colonel Smith and Ellen Turner on the reviewing stand.
A copy of the "Assembly" article can be seen in the Alumni Office in Tallapoosa Hall.
- 1994 -
In the summer of 1993 Mrs. Katy Gardner gave me one of General Futch's star flags(red wool with a single white cotton star) that I later donated to the school. This was done during the open alumni meeting in May of 1994.
I had bought a parade flag pole, brass top and gold colored base for the pole, and mounted the flag on the pole for presentation to the school. Colonel Smith wrote me a nice thank you letter, saying he wanted to place the flag in a display frame to protect it from the elements. The flag, photos of the General, and copies of all the papers I have quoted from in this story are now on display in the Alumni Office / Museum.
- 1999 -
I feel sure that I can speak for all the people listed below, and I am confident that they will agree with the following statement:
"Along with David Lampe('62), Phil Potts('63), Doug Dromey('64), Robert Bell('64), (more alumni than I can name here), all the alumni who contributed funds, all the well wishers, Mrs. Katy Gardner and the Futch family, and I say "Thank You" to Colonel Wesley Smith and the Board of Trustees for completing this project and making this idea become a reality."
- FYI -
Katy Gardner told me one time that we did as much for the General as he did for us. That was because after General Futch retired from the Army in 1954 he tried to sell insurance to make an income. In 1959 when he came to LWMA, the school gave him back a military command, so to speak, and a classroom to teach in.
I have tried to picture General Futch selling insurance, but nothing comes to mind!