In honor of Veteran’s Day 2014.
George Stevens Whitehead, Part II
I have been pondering something for a while. I discussed in an earlier post that George Stevens was a recipient of the Rhodes scholarship. My second cousin, Joe, recently sent me an email about some research he had discovered about George’s time at Oxford. So, I thought I would look into it a bit further.
The Scholarship was formed in 1903 by the will of Cecil Rhodes for the education of “future leaders for the world who would be committed to service in the public good, and whose interactions in Oxford would promote international understanding.” Since its inception, there have only been 7,603 Rhodes scholarship recipients (Rhodeshouse, 2014). This low number makes this award one of the most prestigious collegiate award in history.
Essentially, George Stevens was admitted to Balliol College in Oxford, England in 1916. However, shortly after arriving, the United States of America joins the war (WWI). George sails home to join in the conflict. I found his name on the Baltic’s ship manifest. He departs Liverpool and arrives home to the United States at Ellis Island on July 1, 1917. George was making his passage alongside passengers that were immigrating to the United States. I wonder what was going through his young brilliant mind, as he traveled back to the United States to take up arms, like his father and his ancestors did. Was he angry that this conflict was interrupting his studies? Was he glad to have a chance to fight? Did he feel pressure from his father? (Walter Everett was such a patriotic man having fought in the Spanish-American War previously and also served his country in both World Wars.)
George joined the United States Army and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 313rd Field Artillery with the 80th Division. His service card also indicates that he started with the 87th Division and 335th Machine Gun Artillery. He served overseas from 24 August 1918 to 13th July 1919. He fought at Argonne and St. Mihiel to name a few.
When the war was over, he went back to Oxford to finish his studies. He took a special short degree in Literature and Humanities. After graduating he returned to the United States. He went to California for his health. Apparently he suffered from the same debilitating arthritis that claimed his mother. He was an associate professor at the University of California in the Public Speaking department from 1922-1926. He then became a lawyer and practiced law in San Mateo County California.
In 1942, George was treated at the US Veteran’s Facility in Whipple, Arizona. In fact, his World War II draft card indicates he was a patient at the facility. He was listed as 5’ 9” tall and only 108 pounds. According to the record, George was too ill to contact. The facility completed the document on 28 April 1942.
In July 1944 he moved to a military hospital in Bay Pines, Florida. He subsequently died on 24 January 1946. I wanted to know what he died of at such an early age. I sent away to the Florida Department of Vital Statistics. I was shocked to see that he spent 551 days at the Bay Pines Veteran’s Hospital.
The cause of death was listed as Myocardial degeneration with dilation, Arthritis deformans with secondary anemia (Florida Vital Records).
Essentially he died from a dilated weakened heart muscle. The hospital had performed a surgery on his sinuses but they were unable to control the bleeding afterwards. George also suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis like his mother, however back in the 1940’s they called it Arthritis Deformans.
His body was removed and sent home to Georgia to be buried with the family in the Stevens Family Cemetery at Sandy Cross, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.
Below is the obituary that was published:
Danielsville Monitor, 1 February 1946
SERVICES HELD LAST FRIDAY FOR GEORGE S. WHITEHEAD
George Stevens Whitehead, 50, former resident of Carlton, died last Thursday
at the Veterans Facility in Bay Pines, Florida. Services were conducted from
the Carlton Baptist Church last Sunday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock.
Mr. Whitehead is survived by his father, Walter E. Whitehead; two brothers,
Joe Whitehead, Chicago, IL; sister, Miss Martha Whitehead, Carlton; five
nieces and nephews. (You notice that the obituary has errors. His brother Fred was from Chicago, and his brother Walter Joe was from Carlton).
He was born January 26, 1896 and attended Gordon Institute in Barnesville
before entering the University of Georgia in 1912, where he was such a
brilliant student it is doubtful if his scholastic achievements have ever been
equaled. He completed the Bachelor of Arts degree course in three years and
graduated in 1915. The next year he completed work for, and received his
Master of Arts degree.
While at the University he was a leader, not only in scholastic attainments
but also in various campus and student activities, being especially
outstanding in public speaking.
He was one of the most popular students in his class. Mr. Whitehead was a
member of Phi Beta Kappa national honorary scholastic fraternity, and went to
England as a Rhodes Scholar, studying at Balliol College, Oxford University.
He also held a teachers diploma from the University of California and an
LLB from LaSalle Extension University.
During 1917 – 1919 he served in the armed forces of the nation in the First
World War with distinction as a Second Lieutenant. Later he was an Associate
in the Department of Public Speaking at the University of California and in
1927 took up the practice of law in Burlingame California, where he resided at
the time he became ill (Usgwarchives).
Rhodeshouse, 2014 retrieved on 10/25/14 at http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk
Florida Vital Records
US Archives, retrieved on 8/21/2009 at http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/madison/obits/w/whitehea5570gob.txt