James A. Edmond—Do You Know His Story?
James Archibald “Pete” Edmond was a WWI hero for whom the American Legion Post 121 is the honored namesake. A Waco native, he was born to James and Mattie Edmond in 1893. His mother died 11 days after he was born and his father then passed away leaving James an orphan at age 3. He was raised in Waco by two aunts, Belle Edmond and Mary Edmond Lindsey.
Young James attended Waco schools and was confirmed at First Presbyterian at age 11. He shared a love of football with his cousin, Malcolm Lindsey. Not only did he play football at Waco HS, but he was also the manager of the football team and the athletic editor for the Daisy Chain, the Waco HS annual. James went on to be a great athlete at the University of Texas in Austin, excelling in baseball, basketball, and football. Named the baseball team captain in 1916, he let UT to 1915 and 1916 Southwest Conference baseball titles. In addition, he was All-SWC in basketball in 1915 and 1916, and was the team’s captain in 1914 and 1916. The UT football team was 21-4 during the three seasons James played for them. Waco historian, Roger Conger, called “Pete” Edmond the “greatest all-sport star Waco has ever seen.”
James A. Edmond graduated with honors from UT in 1916 with both a Bachelor and Master’s degrees. Upon graduation, he returned to Waco to be in charge of the Boy Scouts in Waco and also attended Toby’s Practical Business College. In 1917, he made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army. Like all young men aged 21 to 30, Edmond was required to register for military service under the Selective Service Act of 1916. The United States was now a participant in WWI and Edmond would be sent in August of 1917 to Officers Training Camp at Camp Funston (later renamed Camp Stanley) at the Leon Springs Military Reservation near Boerne, TX. His military training sent him to another Camp Funston in Kansas where he was assigned to the 1st Army, 4th Division, 39th Infantry. He was fortunate in his next post at Camp Greene in North Carolina not to be one of the over 300 soldiers who died of influenza while training there. Next, at Fort Sill OK, he received special training at the US Infantry School of Arms and was then sent to France where he earned the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
Shortly after his arrival in France, Lt. Edmond was selected to take part in a parade and celebration in Paris to honor President Woodrow Wilson. Just days later, his platoon would take part as the Allies began their major counter-offensive in Second Battle of the Marne, a battle which decisively turned the tide of the war toward an Allied victory. Lt. Edmond’s skills earned him a spot in a battalion of snipers that cleared a woods of German machine guns. After more officer training at Gondrecourt near Lorraine, Lt. Edmond was made acting Captain of Company E, 39th Infantry. Although recommended for captaincy, Lt. Edmond was killed in action on October 11, 1918 and would never receive the much deserved rank.
The Waco Daily-Times Herald published this about Lt. James A. Edmond’s being awarded the Silver Star:
“James A. Edmond, 1st Lt., 39th Infantry, 4th Division. For gallantry in action near Ferme des Filles, St. Thibaut, France, August 5, 1918. As Intelligence Officer, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry, 4th Division, he made a personal reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, proceeding for two kilometers through an area swept by heavy enemy artillery and machine gun fire, reached the Vesle River, fearlessly determined the position of the enemy line and returned to his battalion with information of great value. On October 11, 1918, near Cunel, France, prior to the advance of his battalion against the enemy forces, he exhorted his men to display determination and a will to win. Upon moving forward he gallantly led his men until he was struck and instantly killed by an enemy bullet.”
Lt. James Edmond was one of the first Wacoans to be killed in action during WWI. Although he lost his life in October of 1918, a memorial service was not held in Waco until March 23, 1919. The service was held in the First Presbyterian Church on Austin Avenue. Today, there is a stained glass window in their sanctuary honoring Lt. Edmond. UT-Austin, where he was an accomplished athlete, received scholarship donations in his memory.
On December 10, 1919, 50 veterans met to begin the process of chartering a branch of the American Legion in Waco. They desired to name their post to honor the memory of the brave hometown soldier, James A. Edmond. On December 18, 1919, State Adjutant Charles Scruggs informed the members that the charter had been approved and the post would be designated the James A. Edmond Post No. 121.
A program was held on March 7, 1920 to honor Lt. Edmond and all other servicemen from McLennan County who had lost their lives in WWI. The French government sent memorial certificates to all the next-of-kin. The widow of James Edmond made and presented to Post 121 a US flag of embroidered silk with gold silk fringe, a polished oak staff topped with a gilded eagle, gold cord and tassels, and silk streamers inscribed with James A. Edmond Post American Legion Waco, Texas.
Amongst pecan trees and copper plate markers placed in Cameron Park in the 1920’s to memorialize Waco’s fallen heroes was a memorial to James A. Edmond. When construction of the Cameron Park Zoo began in the early 1990’s, the memorial to Edmond was found. Then Commander Thomas Ritter of Post 121, made sure the marker was moved and Edmond’s monument has since had a place in Oakwood Cemetery. It reads:
JAMES ARCHIBALD PETE EDMOND
1st Lt. Co. G.39th Inf.
4th Division U.S.A.
Fell in Bois de Peut De Faux
Oct. 11, 1918
Buried in Argonne
Age 25 years
“I have fought a good fight
I have finished my course
I have kept the faith”