Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sept. 30, 2018, column:
Home from war: McLean native 'eloquent in prayer' lost his life in France during WWI

By Mike Haynes
            On Thursday, Oct. 6, 1921, a young man’s body arrived in McLean, east of Amarillo, from New York. The casket was taken out to the home of Lucius and Mattie Floyd west of town, where the body of their son lay in state until Sunday afternoon.
            At 2 p.m., Baptist Pastor A.F. Agee conducted a funeral at the McLean Tabernacle, assisted by Chaplain C.H. Barnes of Hennessy, Oklahoma, and J.A. Hill, president of West Texas State Normal College in Canyon and attended by 150 people in the small, two-decade-old town.
            Members of the American Legion from McLean, Shamrock, Pampa, Canyon and Amarillo carried the flag-covered casket to Hillcrest Cemetery.
            Andrew H. Floyd had been killed in action three years earlier, on Oct. 8, 1918, a month and
Andrew Floyd of McLean died 100 years ago
in France during World War I.
(Provided photo from McLean-Alanreed Area Musuem)

That the young Floyd was held in high esteem is shown by the participation in his funeral of the WT president and the fact that the Sunday after the Floyds were notified of his death in November 1918, residents organized a memorial service at the Baptist Church. The program featured community leaders speaking about “His High School Life,” “His Christian Life,” “His Patriotic Life” and “His Social Life.”
            Pastor J.F. Reagan wrote about Andrew Floyd in the local newspaper on Nov. 22, 1918:
            “He was a member of the McLean Baptist church and lived a devoted life. He was eloquent in prayer and always had an encouraging word for those who were struggling in the Christian life.
            “Andrew Floyd was a patriotic man. … He didn’t want to go to war, he didn’t believe in it, but he loved his country and his home. He felt it his duty to die if need be for the sake of Democracy.”
            The handsome Floyd had been valedictorian of his 1911 high school class and won awards for debate and public speaking at West Texas State Normal College before graduating in 1914. Reagan wrote that while at WT, “he gained the love of the faculties and student body.”
            Floyd taught school in his hometown before enlisting in the U.S. Army just after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. He was stationed in Amarillo for six weeks before being sent to Camp Bowie at Fort Worth, where he was part of the 36th Division that was trained for trench warfare in Europe.
The 1918 headstone of Andrew Floyd in McLean reads
“He Sleeps in France.” A stone was added on top that
says, “Returned to the U.S. and Reinterred on
Oct. 9, 1921.” (Photo by Mike Haynes)
He was shipped out to France in July 1918. In August, Andrew wrote his mother:
            “It’s been quite awhile since I started “Over There;” but after a long ride, I am “Over Here.” Seems very strange to be writing you from France. … After all, you don’t seem any farther away than you ever did. I am home on a visit tonight, notwithstanding an intervening stretch of 3,000 miles of salt water. …
            “We had barely planted foot on soil and assured ourselves that it was firm when we were called on to distinguish ourselves a bit. Company G and Company H (H is from Clarendon) were selected as Honor Guards for General Pershing…
            “The battle cry over here is ‘Heaven or Hell or Home for Christmas.’ You can just go to throwing the feed to those young turkeys now.”
            In October, however, U.S. and French troops were closing in on a church at St. Etienne in southeastern France, attempting to take the city from the Germans. Many Americans charged across an open area in the attack. A historical marker on the Camp Bowie site in Fort Worth says the Americans captured St. Etienne on Oct. 8, contributing to the war’s armistice on Nov. 11, 1918. Floyd was one of several hundred Allied troops who didn’t make it.
Andrew Floyd was the first person
from McLean to die in any war as
he was killed in action in France
during World War I on Oct. 8, 1918.
(Provided photo from
McLean-Alanreed Area Museum)
            Fellow soldier John Sullivan wrote Floyd’s sister, Fay, from France that he had talked to Andrew shortly before his death. “I am proud of that fact that he did not flinch from his duty in the face of peril, but died as he had lived, a true American, worthy of a noble mother who gave him birth and the noble father who guided his steps to stalwart manhood.”

            Writer Jack Woodville London says Germans and Americans killed at St. Etienne were buried in the cemetery of the church the Allies were trying to capture. In 1920, the American remains were moved to the Meuse Argonne American Cemetery, and Andrew Floyd arrived back home in 1921.
            Also in 1921, the American Legion established the Andrew H. Floyd Post 315 in McLean. Thirty years later, it was renamed the Floyd-Corbin-Florey Post to include recognition of Andy Corbin, the first McLean resident to die in World War II, and Wibb Florey, the first and only McLean death in the Korean conflict.
             Floyd’s 1918 headstone reads “He Sleeps in France.” A stone was added on top that says, “Returned to the U.S. and Reinterred on Oct. 9, 1921.”
            Yes, it’s a coincidence, but St. Etienne is the French equivalent of St. Stephen, known as the first Christian martyr; Andrew Floyd was one Texas town’s first casualty of war.