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Madison County Genealogical Society

Minutes of the Meeting - October 10, 2013

The October 2013 meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the Edwardsville Public Library on Thursday, Octoberr 10, at 7:00 pm.

President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.

The following is the Treasurer's report for the month of September:


Do you have a family member that is interested in (or even obsessed with) genealogy? A membership in the Madison County Genealogical Society would be a very thoughtful gift. A gift card will be sent to the recipient of any gift membership.

The following memberships are available:
Individual/Family Annual Membership $20.00
Patron Annual Membership $30.00
Life Membership $250.00

Contact our Secretary, Petie Hunter, at, about a gift membership.

October Meeting

On October 10, 2013, Mr. Ralph "Bo" Jackson, Jr., presented a program titled The History and Impact of Western Military Academy.

Mr. Jackson is the son of Col. Ralph B. Jackson, Sr., the last superintendant of Western Military Academy (WMA). Mr. Jackson's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather served consecutively as superintendants of Western Military Academy. Ralph lived on the WMA campus until it was sold in 1978.

History of Western Military Academy

Western Military Academy was established as the Wyman Institute, a boarding school for young men in Upper Alton, Illinois, in 1879 by Edward Wyman. Mr. Wyman hired Col. A. M. Jackson, great-grandfather of the speaker, a graduate of Princeton, to come and teach at his institute. Upon Mr. Wyman's death, Col. Jackson bought the school from Wyman's estate. Col. Jackson was superintendant of the school from 1888 until his death in 1919. He renamed the school to Western Military Academy, and it evolved into one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.

Col. R. L. Jackson was born on the campus of WMA. He graduated from WMA in 1906, received his degree from Princeton in 1911, and returned to Western as an instructor and coach before succeeding his father as head of the institution.

Col. R. B. Jackson was born in Alton, Illinois, in 1917 and graduated from Western in 1935. He attended college at Colorado College and Princeton and received degrees form the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis. Col. Jackson was on the faculty of WMA both before and after World War II before he was elected president and superintendant of WMA.

Western Military Academy closed in 1971and the campus was sold in 1978. Weather, neglect, vandalism, theft, arson, and the wrecking ball have severely scarred Western's once beautiful and historic campus. Only the administration building, Lower Gym, and "C" Barracks (At one time, there were fives barracks: A through E.) remain along with the front gate and the Memorial Entrance Way.

Heroes of World War II from Western Military Academy

Although nearly 1,100 of Western's young men entered the service during World War II, and fifty-one of those were listed as killed or missing in the line of duty, two of those young men stand out as heroes.

Edward "Butch" O'Hare graduated from WMA in 1932. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1937. His assignment as a carrier pilot put him in the vanguard of U.S. World War II forces. At the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington. A squadron of nine Japanese bombers approached the Lexington. Butch and his wingman were flying cover for the carrier. It was customary for U.S. fighter pilots to test fire their plane's guns before engaging the enemy. The wingman's guns jammed and left Butch alone against the nine bombers. He had four machine guns to their sixty-three guns. Butch, highly outnumbered and outgunned, attacked the bombers. In a matter of a few minutes, he had shot down five and seriously damaged a sixth, disrupting the attack and saving the Lexington. He shot down these bombers using an average of less than sixty rounds per plane. Butch was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President F. D. Roosevelt. He went on to win the Navy Cross and two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals before his death in a night battle off Tarawa in 1943. In 1949, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was named in his honor.

Paul Tibbets graduated from WMA in 1933, graduated form the University of Florida, and enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1937. Early in 1942, he flew in the first daylight bombing raids by the U.S. over German occupied Europe. As a result of these successful missions, he was called upon to ferry Gen. Eisenhower to Gibraltar on the eve of the North Africa invasion.

In 1944, Tibbetts was ordered to lead a top-secret mission to organize and deliver the A-Bomb on Japan. On August 6, 1945, he piloted a B-29 Superfortress, named the Enola Gay after his mother, on a mission to drop the first A-Bomb on Hiroshima. Eight days later, the war had been won and the world had entered the nuclear age. Gen. Tibbetts earned many decorations during his distinguished career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross twice.

Other Notable Cadets

Many other notable individuals attended Western Military Academy. Some of these were:


 Date of Graduation

 Thomas Hart Benton

Famous Missouri Artist
 John Stelle

Governor of Illinois and National Commander of the American Legion
 William Schott

World Famous Diplomat
 Lee Tracy

Academy Award Nominated Actor (The Best Man)
 William Paley

Chairman of the Board of Columbia Broadcasting System
 Rey Scott,

Award Winning Filmmaker
 Robert MacDonald

Owners of the construction company that built the St. Louis Gateway Arch
 Wilfred MacDonald

 Sander Vanocur

Prominent Newsman for NBC
 Jerry Mayer

Playwright TV comedies, All in the Family, MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob
Newhart Show
 Robert Hardesty

Speech Writer and Legislative Assistant for President L.B. Johnson
 Michael Wallis

Best Selling Author, Award Winning Reporter, and Voice Talent (2006 animated movie CARS)

 * Did not graduate from Western Military Academy

Famous Visitors

Many famous personages have visited Western Military Academy:

 Jack Dempsey Former Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World
 Robert P. Wadlow Alton's Gentle Giant, the Tallest Man who has ever lived. (8' 11" and still growing at his death at age 21.)
 August A. Busch Owner of Anheuser Busch Brewery in St. Louis
 Dizzy Dean Famous St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher
 Frank Sinatra Famous Singer and Actor
 Amelia Earhart Famous Aviatrix
 Gen. Jonathon Wainwright Commander of Philippine and U.S. troops at the beginning of World War II. Forced to
surrender on Bataan and was a Japanese prisoner of war from May 6, 1942 to January 9, 1945.

This was a very interesting, entertaining, and informative presentation and generated several questions from the audience.