World War II veterans get high school diplomas

February 24, 2004|HERB BROCK

On Monday night Danville High School held what likely is the smallest - but perhaps most meaningful - graduation exercises in the long history of the school.

In the DHS lobby, which was filled with blue and white balloons, a hundred smiles and at least as many tears, Danville Superintendent Bob Rowland handed out two diplomas. One of them went to a small, slightly-built man with a cane as narrow as a teacher's map pointer but a grin as wide as the world. The other was posthumously awarded, given to the deceased man's brother.

This very special commencement was held for a pair of World War II veterans who were unable to complete their formal secondary educations but passed a true test of patriotism in flying colors - red, white and blue - in military exams held in brutal real-world classrooms in Europe and Asia.

The recipients of the diplomas were James F. Clark, 85, of Danville, and the late Clarence "Bo" Singleton, who died on June 17, 2003. Clark and his family and Singleton's brother, Pete Singleton of Stanford, and their respective families and friends were guests of honor at the ceremony and reception hosted in the lobby by Rowland and Danville Board of Education members Jean Crowley, board chair, and Steve Becker, Marvin Swann and Tim Montgomery.


The ceremony started with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem sung by DHS students Jared Green, Kim Milburn, Krystal Logue, Miranda Raines and Alexis Goble, and that was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rowland then presented the diplomas, the first of what he hopes will be many more as the Danville district has begun a project to locate World War II veterans who did not complete high school because of their military service and award diplomas to them.

Clark grew up on a farm in Hardin County and dropped out of school long before high school graduation. He worked on the family farm, held some odd jobs and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.

He was drafted in the Army in 1942 and rose to the rank of corporal. He served in France and several other European countries for 15 months and received several ribbons and other honors during his service. The climax of his service was the climactic Battle of the Bulge toward the end of the war.

"When we won that battle, the Germans knew they were done," said Clark. "But as happy as I was for us to win the battle, I was sad that so many of us lost our lives. I lost many, many friends in that battle."

Astonished by anti-American feelings in France

Clark said he has been astonished by the anti-American feelings in France triggered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"Cemeteries filled with Americans who fought and died to free France from German occupation are scattered all over the French countryside," he said. "When I went over to France 10 years ago and visited a small town, the people there celebrated Americans. I don't understand why they don't like us now."

After the war, Clark bought a restaurant in Elizabethtown but then moved to Boyle County, where he bought a farm near Perryville and met and married Margaret Lucille Milburn.

The Clarks moved to Danville in 1954 and he got a job at Corning Glass Works (now Philips Lighting), where he worked for 29 years.

The Clarks had three children, including attorney Merl Clark of Danville, David Clark of Lexington, and the late Larry Clark, who died of a brain tumor in 1964. Clark's wife died not long ago.

On receiving the diplomas, Clark said, "It gives me a very great feeling. I earned it a million times during my military service. I earned it in a day during the Battle of the Bulge."

Singleton, of Boyle County, enlisted in the Army in 1941 and earned the rank of corporal. He eventually was sent to The Philippines, where he won several ribbons and other awards.

After the war Singleton was active in several veterans' organizations and an advocate of veterans' causes.

He was the widower of Myra Epperson Singleton.

Singleton's brother Pete, who was a veteran of the Korean War, said his brother would be "very proud" of receiving the diploma. "I know I am," he said.

Another ceremony set

The Danville Board of Education will hold another special graduation ceremony for World War II veterans in November, and plans to conduct additional ones as more veterans of the war are located. To be eligible, a veteran must have served in the military from Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946, and have had their high school educations interrupted to serve their nation. Family members of deceased veterans may request an honorary diploma be awarded posthumously. Verification of an honorable discharge, proof of veteran benefits and information on last school attended are required.

For information, contact Louellen Turner at the board office at (859) 936-8513.

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