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Blackland Footprints

By Herman Scott

A Celeste native who once received a $150,000 personal check from the Canadian government and turned it over to the US Treasury is retiring from government service on February 21, 1963.

Willard D. England, whose wife is the former Pauline Stevenson of Caddo Mills, will retire this month as chief of the Materials Laboratory at the Detroit Army Tank-Automotive Center.

Among military officials and the rubber industry, the Hunt County native is known as "Mr. Rubber" for his work as head of America's efforts to perfect synthetic rubber during World War II.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. I. M. England, Mr. England's sister, Mrs. Albert Norris, still resides in Celeste. A 1914 Celeste High School graduate and educated at Wesley College, England later became an engineer for a civilian rubber firm, and when he went into World War I, he became chauffeur for George C. Marshall. At that time, the World War II Chief of Staff was a colonel.

Marshall and England again met when General Marshall was engaged in military maneuvers in the South. A few months later, the General called England and asked that he head the program to develop synthetic rubber to conserve the nation's tires. Japan's entrance in to World War II had cut off America's natural rubber supplies.

He received the $150,000 check after Canadian officials approached him, hoping to get into the developmental work on synthetic rubber. American officials had told them that England was heading the US program.

The Canadians asked England how much they should pay in order to get in on the program and $150,000 was the amount England quoted. A few days later a bank official called him to ask what should be done with a check of $150,000 to his account from the Canadian government. The upshot of the affair was, the check went to the US Treasury and the Canadians joined the program.

Experimentation with synthetic tires was done near San Antonio, Texas, where most of the soil conditions experienced by American fighting abroad could be duplicated. Also, a staff of 500 in Detroit and 385 vehicles tested tires on a twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven days-a-week basis was engaged in the work.

A retirement party for England will be held on February 15, 1963, in the Pompeii Room of the Whittier Hotel in Detroit. After his retirement, England will move to Houston, where a married daughter resides. Although he has received job offers from industry paying him twice what the government did, he has turned them down as they call for a full-time man and he wants to take it easy.

Submitted by Sarah Swindell

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