Kimbro’s legacy lives on ships, buildings, family

Posted 11/19/19

Truman Kimbro’s parents and two brothers are buried at High Prairie Cemetery near me. As told in a previous article, Melvin Glyn Kimbro was a private in the U.S. Army and T.C. Kimbro served as a staff sergeant in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

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Kimbro’s legacy lives on ships, buildings, family

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(Editor’s note: In honor of National Veterans and Military Families Month, the Meteor is re-running a series of articles (slightly revised) from 2017 about the Medal of Honor and the county’s lone recipient of such. This is the third of three articles.)

Truman Kimbro’s parents and two brothers are buried at High Prairie Cemetery near me. As told in a previous article, Melvin Glyn Kimbro was a private in the U.S. Army and T.C. Kimbro served as a staff sergeant in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

Truman Kimbro left no children. His mother was born a Wilson, from a prolific family and related to many Wilsons, Kyles, Donahos, and Boneys from around here – and me, since my mother was a Wilson and a cousin of Lema Wilson Kimbro. Idell Kimbro Phillips, mother of Manford “Chet” Phillips, was Truman Kimbro’s sister, so there are more and younger relatives through Chet’s five children.

Kimbro has been honored and his courage celebrated in passing years. After World War II ended, a cargo ship was renamed USAT Sgt. Truman Kimbro. She served the Army first, then the Navy and was sold for scrapping in October 1982. Here in Madisonville, the Truman Kimbro Texas Historical Marker and Convention Center were dedicated May 7, 1995. In Belgium, not far from where Kimbro died, a racquetball facility was named for him, at the Brussels American School in a township there called Steerebeek. In 2010, the Truman Kimbro Facility Steerebeek Annex, was rededicated in his honor. An annual racquetball tournament held there was named for Kimbro, to raise awareness of his actions.

The Museum has several Truman Kimbro items on exhibit. One photo shows him holding a guitar. His Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, and other medals and military medals and pieces are framed together. A few more personal Kimbro items have been loaned or given to the Museum.

One postcard was sent June 1, 1942, from Fort Wood, Missouri, while Truman was still in training stateside. Addressed to his sister-in-law Mrs. E.L. Phillips, it reads “Dear Sis…I have been nearly sick the whole week. I got some trash in my eye Monday and had to go to the hospital to get it out. My eye was swollen up like someone had given me a black eye….”

A copy of a faded Christmas card depicts a helmeted soldier with his lower body in a mailbag being mailed from Berlin. It looks to me like one distributed to servicemen in Europe to send home. Truman scrawled on it “Hello Sis…I sure wish I was back there…Maybe I’ll make it next year…”, and signed “Love, Truman”. He never spent another Christmas with his family or anywhere. He didn’t survive even one Christmas season in Europe.

Since first writing this in May of 2017, I learned more about the Widow Marjorie. In 1950, she married Henry Barber in 1950, and they had two children. For 40 years she worked as a sales associate at Foleys in the Houston area, then retired to Willis. She died in 2003 and is buried in Klein Memorial Park in Tomball.

Marjorie’s sister, Frances, had a son, Jimmy Carpenter (1948-2015). Many of my generation knew him in school. His grandparents, Lemma and Frank Brimberry, raised him and lived in the old Brimberry house that still stands just east of Vick Lumber and somewhat behind the Woodbine Hotel. Jimmy graduated from Madisonville High School in 1967 and was Danny Singletary’s classmate from first grade on. Singletary recently said, “From the first time I ever saw him, Jimmy was fascinated by all things military.”

Singletary also said he’d been unable to keep up with Carpenter after high school but heard he served in Vietnam. Preston Richardson, another friend of Carpenter’s, confirmed that, saying, “Jimmy joined the Army around 1968, became a helicopter pilot, and flew Cobra gunships. In those days, people who stayed in the Army could spend two short tours of one year each or one long tour of 18 months in Vietnam. Jimmy volunteered for the long tour and became a decorated veteran.”

He retired from the Army around 1990 and died in 2015. I wish I’d had a chance to ask Jimmy if what he’d heard of Kimbro when he was growing up influenced his military interest.

It impresses me that our small community birthed a Medal of Honor recipient, considering that only 3,524 different persons have received it since March 25, 1863. That averages out to less than 23 a year, not many. I’m proud that we can claim Truman Kimbro as a Madison County hero, and hope you feel the same.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, opens to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum Curator Jane Day Reynolds welcomes your visit. If you’d like to share a story, call the Museum, 936.348.5230. If the answering machine picks up, leave your name, number, and message, and someone will call you back.

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