The dirt farmer with the Medal of Honor

Posted 11/5/19

The Medal of Honor is the highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize United States military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. It is the oldest continuously issued combat decoration for our armed forces. Since the decoration’s creation in 1861, the President, in the name of Congress has awarded 3,524 Medals of Honor to our nation’s bravest servicemen to date.

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The dirt farmer with the Medal of Honor

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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.)

The Medal of Honor is the highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize United States military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. It is the oldest continuously issued combat decoration for our armed forces. Since the decoration’s creation in 1861, the President, in the name of Congress has awarded 3,524 Medals of Honor to our nation’s bravest servicemen to date.

The first Army Medal of Honor was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott during the American Civil War. He was part of a group that made a daring raid, penetrating nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory before being captured and imprisoned. Parrott’s captors tried to make him talk, having him severely beaten 110 times, yes, 110 times! After he was exchanged and taken to Washington D.C., he met with President Abraham Lincoln and became the first Medal of Honor recipient.

The first African American recipient of this award was William Harvey Carney, who was born a slave, made his way to freedom, and joined the Union Army. When he participated in the assault on Fort Wagner, in Charleston, South Carolina, the color guard was fatally wounded. Carney retrieved the American flag and marched forward with it, despite suffering serious wounds to his face, shoulders, arms, and legs. When his fellow troops were forced to retreat under fire, Carney struggled back across the battlefield. When he eventually made his way back to his own lines and turned over the colors to another survivor of the 54th, he modestly said, "Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!” As a result of his wounds, Carney was honorably discharged due to disability in June 1864. Due to prevailing sentiments and prejudices of that era, he was not awarded the Medal of Honor until 1900. Thank Heaven he was still alive after all that time. He died in 1908.

Mary Edwards Walker is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor, and one of only eight civilians to receive it. She was a doctor and left her medical practice when she volunteered with the Union Army when the Civil War broke out. She served as a surgeon at a temporary hospital in Washington, D.C., though at the time women were considered unfit for the Union Army Examining Board. After crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians, she was captured by Confederate forces and arrested as a spy. She was sent as a prisoner of war to Richmond, VA, until released in a prisoner exchange. After the war, she was approved for the

Medal of Honor, but her name was deleted from the Army Medal of Honor Roll in 1917 (along with over 900 others). In 1977, President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously.

By now, you’ve probably asked yourself why I’ve written about the three above Medal of Honor recipients who aren’t part of our local history. That’s right, they aren’t, but they ARE part of our history. I think knowing of their brave deeds will make us more appreciative our county’s own Medal of Honor recipient.

Truman Kimbro (1918-1944) was born in Cottonwood community, about six miles west of Madisonville. His parents, Tom and Lema (Wilson) Kimbro, raised eight children. The family members were “dirt farmers” (another term for tenant farmers) and moved often. After working hard, they were finally able to purchase 160 acres in the Center community. The land lay about a mile west of Highway 90 near FM 1452. Neil Lindsey lives near there now, and when roads were renamed due to 911 Emergency Management, personnel asked Lindsey about naming it Lindsey Lane. He suggested Kimbro Lane instead, and that’s what it is.

Truman was 15 when the family moved to Center. His younger brother, T.C., later remembered them walking across pastures to the old Center School. Though Truman was a good student, his interests lay elsewhere, and he quit school after seventh grade. He was quiet, agreeable, and unassuming, with a big grin. The family’s older sons were courting by the time they all moved to Center, so most of the chores fell to Truman and T.C. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and whittling, becoming an expert whittler. Once he won first place with a hand-carved entry in the Madison County Fair, and he made excellent guitars and fiddles. He loved to play those instruments, but he wasn’t as talented at making music as musical instruments.

Truman attended Fellowship Baptist Church regularly, and that’s where he met Marjorie Brimberry. They dated throughout her senior year of school. Later she moved to Houston to work at Oshman’s Sporting Goods store, and Truman followed her to work for a family dairy. They married October 8, 1941, when she was 21 and he was 24. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, and Truman was drafted into the Army several days later. His military records show that he entered the service in Houston, though Madison County claims him as a native son.

Kimbro was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for basic training, and he trained stateside for three years, in Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin. He liked the army and wrote about it in letters home. Finally, he was shipped overseas. He was a Technician Fourth Grade in the 2nd Engineers Combat Battalion of the Second (Indianhead) Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He and his unit first entered combat on D-Day, June 6, 1944, on Normandy’s Omaha Beach. Elements of his battalion were the first to go ashore at Omaha Beach where the deadliest fighting of all took place. Kimbro was not among the first 69 men and one officer that waded ashore ahead of all troops and under withering fire, but he soon followed.

Pick up next week’s Meteor to continue the saga of Truman Kimbro.

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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