From Shaw Field's early construction, its air school grew into a viable and functional entity. Research finds that many individuals, including several from Sumter, made important contributions to the school's growth and development. Contributions made by several individuals, both military and civilian, helped Shaw become one of the most important air schools in the nation.
Perhaps the leading local citizen serving at Shaw was William A. Thompson, former executive secretary of the Sumter Chamber of Commerce who while on active duty served as base defense and class training officer. He graduated from Sumter High School and Clemson College, where he received a bachelor of science degree and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. During Thompson's tenure with the Chamber, he along with several Sumterites, including F.B. Creech, John Riley, Johnny Raffield and others, played an important role in convincing the military to choose Sumter as the site for the military flight school. Thompson was called to active duty and was selected to attend the adjutant general's school in Washington, D.C. From Washington, he was assigned to a duty station at Maxwell Field in Alabama before coming to Shaw Field in the summer of 1941, where he was promoted to the rank of major. His initial assignment at Shaw was to plan and coordinate all training for officers and enlisted men at the basic flying school.
The Sumter community provided another key figure to the flying school, Lt. Ruth H. Beaty. Beaty holds the "distinction of being the first trained nurse to be stationed at Shaw Field." The day after she was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps, she was assigned to duty at Shaw Hospital. A Sumter native, nurse Beaty was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Beaty, and like Thompson graduated from Sumter High School. She graduated from Queens College in Charlotte and completed her nurse's training at Tuomey Hospital in 1941. She practiced nursing locally until she entered the service and was assigned to Shaw Field.
Many civilians were also employed at Shaw to help "speed the war effort."
"The first civilian employees reported to Shaw Field on Sept. 1, 1941, more than three months before flight training began. They were Elinor Barwick, civilian personnel clerk, and Miss Elizabeth Spears, special orders clerk. They were followed a few days later by Miss Anne Lemmon, Mrs. Dolores Sykes, Mrs. Ira Kay, Mrs. Edna B. Isley and Mrs. Raymond Fowler, who took up their duties in post headquarters, then an incomplete building with little or no furniture. These veteran employees can remember when they all shared one typewriter and used nail kegs for chairs. They can also recall the man who served them ice water from a canteen carried over his shoulder before water coolers were installed. However, the hardships were soon overcome, and by the time the first class of cadets arrived in December, many buildings with many new offices had been opened, and the number of civilian employees at Shaw Field had grown in proportion by the size of the post and its manifold activities."
The following civilian employees were at Shaw Field when flight training began: Elinor Barwick, Lydia Lee James, Elizabeth Spears, Dolores U. Sykes, Marguerite B. Baily, Portia C. Cuttino, Mary L. Lackey, Anne Lemmon, Elizabeth A. Manning, Jennie S. Merrit, Marianne F. Palmer, Annette Roddey, Carolina E. Ross, Clara Ellen Fowler, Eleanor W. Dubose, Anne M. Lewis, Dela G. Beddoes, Mary C. Harrelson, Rebecca Gates, Edna B. Isley, Annie N. Moore, Leona M. Pope, Corinne B. Riley, Clair F. Rogerson, Ella L. Smith, Laura Jane Cooper, Margaret C. Adams, Ruth S. Mims, Eleanor M. Dwight, Gloria B. Seale, Sophia G. Lyon and Tallullah M. McGilvary; also James F. Atkinson, Elizabeth B. Bailey, Edward A. Brown, William A. Carlisle, Marguerite B. Compton, George Dennis, Harvin Dennis, Frank N. Duke, Dorothy A. Dunlap, George W. Faulk, Sarah A. Fields, Luther O. Funderburke Jr., Edna B. Gamble, Elizabeth J. Geddings, William D. Harrington, Richard I. Kolb, Julia W. McCoy, Ruth E. Pate, Harry Prioleau, Manning R. Rappe, Joseph B. Richardson, Willie R. Sargent, Grace W. Schwerin, Lucille B. Steine, Ethel H. Stubbs, Margaret A. Terry, Gladys M. Tomlinson, Joe K. Wells, Marion H. West, Lawrence L. Whitaker, Thomas J. Wooten, Hilliard I. Brunner and Edwin C. Bradberry.
The information and photos used in making this document were obtained from The Sumter Item archives and from information provided to the paper in 1942 by the Shaw Cadets in celebration of the base's first anniversary.
Reach Item Archivist Sammy Way at email@example.com or (803) 774-1294.