Memories of General T. L. Futch and a Saturday at Fort Benning

By Paul Tate, LWMA Faculty, 1965 - 1983

I only knew General Futch for the 1965-66 school year, my first year teaching at LWMA. He was not there when I returned to resume teaching in 1968-69. General Futch taught an academic class (such as trig, advanced algebra, and calculus) in the academic building to seniors as part of their academic day during 1965-66. He was a master teacher. Such a brilliant man in all areas (besides military) as well, very humanitarian. and humble, and basically more teacher than military general.

Generally, he would sit alone at a table in the dining hall during meals. If none of the other of my colleagues had preceded me and were sitting at the "teacher's table," General Futch would invite me to join him at his table, and I would look forward to those occasions. Sometimes I would purposefully "beat" my colleagues to the dining hall just so I could sit with him. We would have wonderfully enlightening dialogues (actually monologues, with his doing just about all of the talking since was I was content to listen and to learn as much as I could from him). I think he enjoyed being my "teacher."

Once he invited me to accompany him and a group of graduating senior cadets for a trip to Fort Benning one Saturday. He asked me to ride with him in his LWMA-provided car [In fact, at the time, his car was one of two, blue, Air Force surplus, four-door Chevrolets (1956's, I think) that Colonel Smith had been able to scrounge somehow. Each of them was in pretty good condition, as I remember, though both sorely in need of spit and polish, a good wax job. I often wondered why a detail of cadets were never assigned to polish the car, but General Futch would never have asked for anything like that.] Anyway, on the trip to Fort Benning, he drove, and our conversations continued. The cadets, under the command of the battalion commander, were driven by Mr. Eugene Clark on the school's bus.

I did not know when we left the campus early that morning that that day would be one full of pomp, circumstance, military splendor, and the respect that a retired general, even a brigadier, would garner from the Command at Fort Benning.

Just outside the gate at Fort Benning, General Futch and the bus pulled into a large parking area. Within less than 30 seconds, a highly shined, brand new, O.D. painted Army sedan drove up beside General Futch's dulled LWMA car, and a first lieutenant and his NCO driver immediately got out, snapped to attention, and saluted, holding it until General Futch, chewed cigar stub still characteristically resting in the corner of his mouth, casually returned the greeting.

"Sir! I am First Lieutenant _________, and I will be your personal escort for today," he said, "And General ___________ has requested that I accompany you and your group directly to his office as your first stop." After an exchange of greetings, introductions, and handshakes, the aide opened and held the back door of the sedan for General Futch (and me, dressed of course as a civilian) to enter. The driver had already placed in the holder on the front fender of the car the small fender-flag of a brigadier general. The lieutenant joined the driver on the front seat, and we were off to Army Command headquarters with the LWMA bus following close behind. There was very little, if any, talking during the short drive.

I had heard General Futch tell the Cadet Battalion Commander Higley Parr before we left Camp Hill that once the group had arrived at the Command Headquarters that the cadets would need to wait on the bus while he went to greet the "commander." He told Higley that the military escort for the cadet tour would begin at Headquarters.

When we arrived at Headquarters, there was a small contingent of honor guards waiting out front. I said to General Futch as we drove up, "I'll wait with the cadets on the bus." He replied, "No, I want you to go in with me. I want you to meet a friend of mine." After the expected exchange of salutes with the honor guard, the lieutenant led us into the inner rooms of the headquarters.

Immediately we walked into the commandant's office, and there on the visitor's side of a massive desk, facing toward the entrance door, standing at a rigid attention and saluting, was three-star Lieutenant General __________. I realized instantly that he was honoring General Futch, who slowly returned his salute. Instantly the commandant, a younger man, moved to General Futch and embraced him. They exchanged pleasant greeting, and after General Futch introduced me to him, the commandant said to me, "General Futch was my first commanding officer after I graduated from West Point in _____(year)." I knew there had to be something special about each of these two military leaders.

After a few minutes, General Futch said to General ________, "Let's go outside now. I want you to meet some of the finest young men I have ever known." The two generals eagerly went outside and stood by the door of the bus as Higley Parr, followed by each of the other senior cadets, stepped down to pop a salute to the three-star general, shook the general's hand, and then stood at attention as General Futch told the commander the name and the home town of each of the cadets whom he introduced. Higley Parr had done well in coaching the other cadets in what to do as they got off the LWMA bus and onto an Army bus that waited nearby. General Futch and I joined the cadets on the bus for a guided tour conducted by a major and two NCO's.

The commandant rejoined us at lunch when he treated General Futch and our cadets at the Officer's Club. There he spoke to us about being a cadet at West Point and how much General Futch had influenced his earlier days as an Army officer shortly after graduating. All of us were impressed. I was told that there was much excitement among the cadets on the bus returning to Camp Hill as their discussions centered around the splendid military kinds of events that they had witnessed that day. My conversation with General Futch in the car was equally as interesting but, I suspect, not nearly as exciting.