Shaw Field was site of many weddings when WWII started


With the United States' entry into World War II, the number of nuptial ceremonies involving Shaw Field and Sumter residents increased greatly. The Sumter Item archives from that period revealed a substantial number of young women who married into the military, as well as information concerning several unique matrimonial ceremonies.

On Dec. 22, 1941, The Daily Item announced that Lt. Young Parran Dawkins Jr., and his new bride, the former Miss Frances Bull of Montgomery, Alabama, had become the first couple to be married in the recently erected Post Chapel No. 1 at Shaw Field on Dec. 20, 1941. The young couple held a reception in Sumter, during which the bride cut the wedding cake with a sword that belonged to Gen. Thomas Sumter. After the ceremony, the couple were to make their home in Sumter while Lt. Dawkins remained stationed at Shaw Field to complete his flight training.

Another first for Shaw was a recruit who got married over the phone. Pvt. Weldon Tidwell of Shaw Field and his intended, Miss Opal Carter of Mexia, Texas, were married at a distance; the bridegroom grinned happily as he asked his bride of three minutes, "How does it feel to be married?" But before the answer returned over 1,100 miles of telephone, the operator interrupted stating, "I am sorry, but your time is up."

Shaw eventually took possession of a 16-room mansion at the corner of Broad and Salem streets in 1941. This new facility became known as the Cadet Club, which provided relaxation and recreational activities for cadets training at Shaw Field. The club had a full-time hostess, Mrs. R.C. Williams of Sumter, who arranged dates for cadets with local girls, secured accommodations for visiting relatives and even bought birthday gifts for the girlfriend back home.

On Nov. 25, 1942, the first marriage to be held at the Cadet Club took place; Miss Priscilla Butterfield, daughter of Mrs. Ernest Warren Butterfield of West Hartford, Connecticut, and Aviation Cadet Kennard Orble Stephens of Shaw Field, son of Mr. and Mrs. O.C. Stephens of Valley Park, Missouri, were married by Captain Frank K. Brasington, chaplain of Shaw Field. The ceremony was performed in the blue drawing room of the Cadet Club with the club providing the bride's cake as a gift.

Numerous weddings and engagements between Sumterites and service personnel occurred in the span from Pearl Harbor to the cessation of hostilities, frequently highlighting the local social calendar.

Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at or (803) 774-1294.