Some interesting stories are coming to light as the Berrien County Historical Foundation prepares for an exhibit on Hometown Teams, A Smithsonian Exhibit, to open in 2016. One local sports standout was William Lamar Parham – a scholar, athlete and soldier of Berrien County.
William Lamar Parham, of Berrien County, GA. West Point Class of 1931.
William Lamar Parham (1907-1932) was a son of Charlie S. Parham and Lola Lee Giddens. His father came to live at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA in 1898 where he met Lola, a daughter of Fannie Baskins and William Knight Giddens. After marriage, his parents made their home in Nashville, GA.
A previous post on the Ray City history blog gave a sketch of Lamar’s father, Charlie S. Parham, written in 1937, but Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien Historical Foundation, noted the conspicuous absence of Lamar in that biography:
“The 1937 biography of Charlie S. Parham indicates he had two children in 1936. Actually he had two children surviving at that time [Verne Parham, b. 1905; Lola Marie Parham, b. abt 1911]. Charlie and Lola actually had four children. One of their first children died in infancy, no name known. However they had another child, William Lamar Parham who was born in 1907.
Like his father, Lamar was an aggressive learner. He completed his high schooling in Nashville at the age of 16, and entered college … that same year. He earned a B.A. degree in three years, graduating in 1927, age 19.
At North Georgia Agricultural College (now the University of North Georgia), William Lamar Parham played football, basketball, and baseball. He was a member of the literary society, the Sigma Nu Fraternity, and the college band.
Lamar went to college at North Georgia Agricultural College (now known as the University of North Georgia), at Dahlonega, GA. North Georgia was founded as a military college, sometimes known as “Georgia’s ‘West Point’,” and Lamar enrolled as a military cadet. Among others from Berrien County who were in the Corps of Cadets at North Georgia were Jonathan Perry Knight (1872-1953), Jamie Connell (1920-1973), James Arthur Grissett (1932-2010), and Joe Donald Clements (1931-2014).
Lamar completed his Bachelors degree at North Georgia and graduated in 1927.
He then was accepted at Army’s West Point Academy, where he spent 4 years, earning his commission. While at West Point he was on the varsity football, baseball, and wrestling teams, lettering in all sports. He was the starting tackle for two years on the football team, catcher and one of the best hitters on the baseball team, and had a winning record in the heavy weight class on the wrestling team.
William Lamar Parham. 1929 letterman, Army football team, West Point
At West Point, Lamar joined another former North Georgia College football player, Charles Ingram “Polly” Humber, who became captain of the Army team. Lamar played football on the same West Point teams with Humber, Robert L. Carver, and Red Cagle, who were nationally known college football stars. After graduating from West Point Parham, Humber and Carver all went on to Army Flight School at Randolph Field, Texas. Red Cagle, who was an All American college player, left West Point to become a professional football player with the New York Giants and co-owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers football team. Cagle died at age 37, after falling down a stairwell in a Manhattan subway station. Polly Humber served in WWII as a Lt. Colonel and was captured by the Japanese in the invasion of the Philippines in 1942. Humber died at age 39, while being held as a prisoner of war on the infamous “Cruise of Death” aboard the Japanese transport ship Oryoku Maru. Robert L. Carver, who quarterbacked the 1931 and 1932 West Point teams, died in 1935, age 28, when his plane crashed into a Florida swamp. Lamar Parham would be the youngest of the four to be taken.
1931 West Point Yearbook
William Lamar Parham
Eleventh District, Georgia
From sunny Georgia’s peach orchards and cotton fields to West Point’s grey walls and soggy dress coats is a step which few men could endure with the equanimity that has marked Blondy’s four-year sojourn midst these hallowed halls. But then his nature is such that he regards classes and drills with their attendant miseries as mere trivialities, and that is essential to equanimity in this institution.
Besides what is there in any textbook to bother a man already holding a university degree, who possesses at the same time a decided penchant for sleeping? Apparently none, and yet somehow Blondy has always been close to the top academically. Personality he called it, but others laid it to his natural ability to spout bigger words faster than anyone else. Argument was his best bet. Ask him why all light haired men aren’t Swedes.
Despite his violent dislike for physical exertion he found time to play football and baseball with wrestling as a mid-winter diversion.
Football (4-3-2-1); Wrestling (4-2-1); Baseball (4-3-2-1); Gun Club; Camp Illumination Committee; Rifle Sharpshooter; Pistol Marksman; Color Line; Major “A”; Minor “A”; Corporal (2); Lieutenant (1)
After graduating in 1931 from the West Point Academy, Parham entered Army flight school, first at Kelly Field then at Randolph Field, TX.
Douglas BT2B biplane at Randolph Field, TX, 1931
William Lamar Parham, of Berrien County, GA was on a solo training flight in a Douglas BT2B Basic Trainer, when his plane suddenly dived into the ground. Parham was the first airman killed at Randolph Field. Image source: The Portal to Texas History.
Parham was training solo at Randolph Field, Texas when his plane crashed and he was burned to death in 1932. He was just 24.
The Texas newspapers first reported the story:
William Lamar Parham, Berrien County, GA Dies at Randolph Field, TX, Corsicana Daily Sun, March 21, 1932
Corsicana Daily Sun
March 21, 1932
Dies in Crash
San Antonio, March 21. Second Lieut. William Lamar Parham, 23, of Nashville, Ga., student officer at Randolph Field, near San Antonio, was killed today when the plane he was flying crashed near Marion, a mile west of the huge airdrome.
The crash was the first fatal accident for a Randolph Field flier since the field was opened last November.
Lieutenant Parham was practicing maneuvers outlined by his instructor for basic training when the accident occurred. He was flying alone when the plane suddenly fell and burst into flames. The pilots’ body was badly charred.
March 22, 1932
Randolph Field Student is Killed
San Antonio, March 21. – Funeral arrangements for Second Lieutenant William Lamar Parham, 24, student officer at Randolph Field, who was killed when his plan crashed and burned near Marion this morning were delayed tonight pending word from his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Parham of Nashville, Ga.
Services will be held at the field with full military honors Tuesday or Wednesday. A board of three officers, consisting of Major D. N. Grant, medical corps, Captain George W. Polk, Jr., engineering officer, and Lieut. Albert F. Glenn, operations officer, has been appointed to investigate the accident.
Lieut. Parham had just completed a dual flight with a instructor and was practicing various maneuvers solo at the time of the crash.
San Antonio Express, March 23, 1932
San Antonio Express
March 23, 1932
Air Victim Given Military Funeral
Classmate Will Escort Body To Home in Georgia
Full military honors were accorded Second Lieut. William L. Parham, who was killed Monday when in a plane crash near Marion, Tuesday afternonn, in the Zizik-Kearns Undertaking Company chapel, Chaplain W. B. Hill officiating. All student officers in the basic class at the field, classmates of Lieut. Parham at West Point attended the services.
Lieut. Boyden E. Beebo Jr., a classmate, will escort the body to Nashville, Ga., Wednesday, for burial.
The officer died when his plane dove into the ground from an altitude of about 300 feet. It burst into flames as it crashed, burning the pilot beyond recognition.
He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Parham. He was 24 years old.
William Lamar Parham killed in plane crash. Atlanta Constitution, March 22, 1932
March 22, 1932
GEORGIA BOY DIES IN ARMY AIR CRASH
Second Lieutenant William Lamar Parham, 23, of Nashville, Ga., one of the most promising students of the army aviation school at Randolph field, San Antonio, Texas, was instantly killed during maneuvers there Monday, when the plane he was piloting crashed.
Lieutenant Parham had been regarded as the topmost aviation student during his courses at Kelly field, before he was assigned to Randolph field. He was graduated from the Kelly field class in September of last year as honor student flier, and had been assigned to Randolph field since that time.
The son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Parham, prominent Berrien county citizens, Lieutenant Parham was graduated from the Nashville High School in 1923, after which he attended North Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical College, Dahlonega from which he graduated in 1927.
Following his graduation from North Georgia College Parham was nominated to West Point, and was graduated from that institution in 1931 with rank of second lieutenant. During his West Point career he was one of the leading athletes of the institution, being a member of the varsity wrestling, football and baseball teams. He was a close friend of “Red” Cagle and “Polly” Humber, playing tackle on the same teams as those two famous grid stars.
Advices Monday from San Antonio stated that Lieutenant Parham’s plane dived suddenly during manoeuvers, and burst into flames the moment it crashed about a mile west of the huge aerodrome at Randolph field. The young officer’s body was charred.
In addition to his parents, Parham is survived by one brother, Charles V. Parham, of Atlanta, and a sister, Miss Marie Parham, of Nashville. Funeral arrangements will be announced following the arrival at Nashville of the body.
March 23, 1932
Funeral Rites Held for Lt. W. L. Parham
San Antonio, Texas. March 22. Military funeral services for Second Lieutenant William L. Parham, who was killed Monday when his plane crashed and burnd near Marion, were held here this afternoon with Chaplain W. B. Hall officiating. All student officers in the basic class at Randolph field, who were classmates of Lieutenant Parham at West Point, attended the services.
The body will be taken to Nashville, Ga. tomorrow for burial, with Lieutenant Boyden E Boebe Jr., also a member of the basic class, as escort. The accident occurred when Lieutenant Parham’s plane was circling to the ground and suddenly dived earthward from an altitude of about 300 feet.
He is survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Parham, of Nashville, Ga.
Bryan Shaw concludes, “His body was returned to Nashville and was buried at the Old City Cemetery across from the Methodist Church. His death was the first to occur at the Randolph Field. The Lt. W. L. Parham Youth Center at Randolph Field is named in his honor.”
Grave of William Lamar Parham (1907-1932), Nashville, GA