Saturday, April 25, 2009

Legless George Samples

In keeping with the George Samples theme from yesterday, there was another George W. Samples, a nephew of the policeman, who lost both legs in World War 1 -- and became a taxi driver in Newport. George was a son of James Alexander Samples (also known as Felix Alexander Samples and Alexander P. Samples) and Elizabeth Watts.

Newport Plain Talk, 5 July 1938, page 1:

Death Comes to City’s Legless World War Hero

Geo. Samples passes away at home at noon Sunday after an illness of several months

Was wounded while Allies were breaking Hindenburg Line – Left on battlefield as dead but later picked up by members of home company – Funeral this morning

Newport’s best known ex-soldier is dead. George Samples, legless World war veteran, passed into the Great Beyond at his home shortly after noon Sunday after an illness of eight weeks. Mr. Samples’ health began failing last September, but he was able to be about until approximately two months ago. Growing weaker Mr. Sample was taken to a Greeneville hospital, where he took treatment for two weeks. Seeing no chance for the stricken man, attending physicians had him removed to his home here last Wednesday where he remained until the end came Sunday.

George volunteered his services to his country along with scores of other Cocke county boys in May, 1917, joining Capt. Thurman Ailor’s company of volunteers which was formed here. For weeks the company drilled at the fairgrounds before being called to camp. After entering the regular army camp, the local compann [sic] became a part of Headquarters Company, 120th Infantry, and was sent to Europe. The group saw action in Belgium and France. During an attack on the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918, George fell with what was thought to be fatal injuries. Mike Crino, well known local musician, who was with an ambulanee [sic] crew, went to the scene of action shortly after the charge, and looking over the site where he thought the Cocke countians had been he found Samples with both legs badly mangled. He picked Samples up and rushed him to a base hospital, where the injured limbs were removed by an operation.

Returning to the States afterwards, Samples underwent numerous operations on his legs, and at the time of his death he had undergone 17 major operations, and both legs had been removed almost at the hips.

Handicapped as he was, George was able to drive a care expertly. He devised equipment to attach to an automobile, making it possible for him to start the machine, feed the fuel, change gears and stop the call, all with his hands. Samples applied for a patent for his “contraption,” but someone in another part of the country had patented a similar device shortly before.

For a number of years, George drove a taxi, mostly just to have something to do. Being a great baseball fan he attended practically every game the Newport Canners played last year, including both home stands and road games. He and Mrs. Samples opened their home to the players and a number of the baseball boys roomed there last year and thus far this year. George only witnessed a few of this year’s games, his failing health prohibiting him from attending.

Due to inactivity by the loss of his leg, Mrs. Samples’ kidneys and other organs became lax and a kidney ailment caused his death. He seemed to be in the best of health until within the past few months. He was well known and loved by all. He was very jovial, and oftimes [sic] kidded about his shoes hurting his feet, his toes itching, or some other joke about his feet or legs of which he had neither.

George attended practically every state convention of the American Legion, and several of the national meetings. He always received a big hand when he appeared in public at all of the gatherings. During the state convention in Knoxville on Labor Day, 1933, George took part in the parade, being pushed by two local boys. The thousands gathered in that city for the meeting gave George a greater ovation than anyone else. At that time the NRA was new and every place advertised, “We do our part.” Over each of the wheels of George’s chair signed reading “I did my part” were placed and these attracted much attention.

Mr. Samples was married to Miss Edwin [sic] Robeson several years ago. They have one daughter, Carol. Mr. Samples’ mother, Mrs. Alex Samples, made her home with them. George was very devoted to his mother, wife and daughter, always doing something for their pleasure. Surviving are also four brothers and four sisters.

Military services were conducted at ten o’clock this morning in the Cocke County Memorial building with Revs. J.L Chaney, S.C. Amick and Will Weaver officiating. Burial was in the Union cemetery. The American Legion was in charge of the services.

For detailed family information and all genealogical evidence, visit my family file entry for George W. Samples.

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