As we observe Veteran’s Day this month, a look at some of the Ole Miss Annuals from the 1940s reminded me that the three dormitories at the top of the hill on the Ole Miss campus are named after Ole Miss student Body Leaders from 1942 and 1943. These dormitories are Gerard, Sam and Baxter.
Gus Gerard from Grenada and Bill Sam from Vicksburg were the President and Vice-President, respectively, of the Sudent Body in 1942. Hermann Baxter from Bay St. Louis was President of the student body in 1943. All three were killed in World War II. I have always known these stories hearing them from my mother, who was their classmate in the early 1940s. Mother always said that Bill Sam was killed fighting in the Pacific and that Gus Gerard was a Paratroop Lieutenant, whose plane was shot down by friendly fire on February 10, 1944 over Anzio, Italy. I do not know how Hermann Baxter died. You may remember that James Meredith, as a student in 1962, was housed in Baxter Dorm.
In 2004, I was privileged to take a tour sponsored by the Steven Ambrose D-Day Museum in New Orleans, called “D-Day to the Rhine.” We went from London to Normandy, Paris, Holland, Battle of the Bulge sites in Belgium and Luxembourg, and ended the trip in Weisbaden, Germany.
During our stop in Luxembourg we went to the American Military Cemetery in Haam where General George Patton is buried. I had called home and in talking with my mother about going to the Cemetery she said, “Oh, I believe that is where Gus Gerard is buried.” The next day at the Cemetery I followed the cemetery map and found not only the grave of Gus Gerard but that of his brother, Frank Gerard, Jr., who was killed on February 8, 1945, in Europe. They are buried side by side. Their family made the decision not to bring them back to Grenada but to leave them in Europe to rest eternally with their comrades who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
I later told this story to William Winter, who had grown up with the Gerard brothers in Grenada. Governor Winter told me that he had gone to the memorial service for Gus Gerard in his hometown, and that his brother, Frank Gerard, was at the same service. Governor Winter also told me that he understood that Frank Gerard, after his death, was awarded the Distinguished Services Cross, which is the military award for conspicuous bravery that is just below the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I have attached Ole Miss Annual photographs of Gus Gerard, Bill Sam, and Hermann Baxter, together with a photograph of me at the grave of Gus Gerard. May we never forget that the price of our freedom was bough and paid for with the blood and lives of young men such as these. The debt of gratitude we owe them is immeasurable. On the hallowed grounds of these military cemeteries you become acutely aware that the currency of our freedom is engraved, white, Italian marble.
–Cham Trotter is an attorney in Belzoni, Mississippi. He was awarded a B. A. in 1969 and a J. D. in 1972 from the University of Mississippi. He is past president of the Mississippi Bar, and is now the longest-serving acting judge in Mississippi, having been a municipal court judge continuously since 1973. Cham is past president of the Old Miss Alumni Association Law Chapter. He and his wife Jane have three children, all graduates of the University of Mississippi and fifth generation graduates also.