Biography of Lieut. Oscar Willis Pate Jr., U. S. N.
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Five sons were born to Mack and Mattie Willis Pate, all of whom united with the Baptist Church of Hawkinsville. The oldest, Oscar Willis Pate, was born in Hawkinsville. November 29, 1879, and attended both public and private schools in Hawkinsville, later going to Mercer University, where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Upon leaving school he was associated with his father in business. On December 18, 1900, he married Rosa May Roberson, of Tennille, Ga. Two years later they moved to Quitman, Ga., then to Jacksonville, Fla. They later moved back to Tifton, Ga., and in 1917 back to Hawkinsville, where they now live. Oscar is engaged in the automobile business, being president of the Pate Chevrolet Company of Eastman, Ga. The children of Oscar and Rosa May Roberson Pate are: Willis Roberson Pate, born September 23, 1901, and died October 1, 1901; John McLendon Pate, born September 24, 1902, attended kindergarten in Jacksonville, Fla., and public schools in Tifton and Hawkinsville. After graduating from Hawkinsville schools he attended Georgia School of Technology in Atlanta, where he was pledged to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He has lived in Macon for several years, and is now assistant sales manager of Bibb Chevrolet Company in that city.
Oscar Willis Pate, Jr., was born in Tennille, Ga., December 4, 1904, at the home of his grandmother, Mrs. John A. Roberson. His parents at that time were living in Jacksonville, Fla., where Oscar lived until he was five years old. During this time he attended kindergarten and, when he was seven years of age, he entered the public school at Tifton, Ga., to which city his parents had moved two years before. In 1917 his family moved to Hawkinsville, and Oscar entered the seventh grade of that school. At the beginning of the spring term he was promoted to the eighth grade, completing two grades in one year. In the year 1919-20, while in the tenth grade, at the age of fourteen years, Oscar made the highest average in mathematics over the entire high school, receiving a medal offered by the Boston Store. He was graduated from the Hawkinsville public schools in 1921 at the age of fifteen, and entered Mercer University the following fall, joining the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He completed his freshman and sophomore years at Mercer, during which time he was seeking an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. During the vacation months of 1921 and 1922 he, with his brother, John, and other Hawkinsville boys and college mates, packed peaches in North Carolina for occupation. At the end of the peach season all returned home except Oscar, who decided to go to Maryland for the apple season. As he passed through Washington he went to the Capitol and made personal calls on Senators William J. Harris and Thomas E. Watson and Congressman W. W. Larsen, urging an appointment to Annapolis. He also made a trip to Annapolis to look the place over. His parents were not aware of his whereabouts, thinking he was still in North Carolina, until a letter came from a bank in Washington to the Planters Bank of Hawkinsville making an inquiry about Oscar and saying that he had applied there to make a deposit.
In the spring of 1923 Oscar received a telegram from Congressman Larsen asking him to take a competitive examination with three other boys for an appointment to Annapolis. Oscar was allowed to submit his credits, thereby winning the appointment. A few weeks later he received a second appointment from Senator Harris and later received a third from Senator Walter F. George. He entered the Naval Academy in July 1923.
Plebe Summer is said to be the happiest period of a midshipman’s life. The first and second years are called plebe and youngster years; the third year is called second class; and the fourth is called first class. Until a student reaches the second class, his very soul is not his own. However, upon entering the first class one begins to realize that the past experiences and hard work have been good for him, and that he is now really coming into his own. Oscar loved each of these years, and made many friends at the Academy. His roommate, William A. Perdue, who was a member of The Log staff and biographer for the graduates of the class of 1927, said of him: “Have you seen a person, not one acclaimed by the multitudes because of the greatness of some deed done, but one whom every one likes because of his likeable personality? Well, that’s Oscar. A typical, slow-talking son of Georgia, one more suited to that golden age of the South, the plantation age period before the Civil War. However, Oscar has taken his lot well, content to live, and happy as long as he is left alone. During the past four years Oscar has gone about his academic job in a slow, methodical manner. He has been very thorough, always taking particular care to see that he was satisfactory in his studies. The remainder of his time he devoted to making friends.”
Oscar made three midshipman cruises while at the Naval Academy. His first, or youngster cruise, took him to Europe, landing at Torquay, England, and included France, Belgium, Holland, and Gibraltar. Most of the leaves of the midshipmen of this cruise were spent in London, Paris, and Brussels. The second class cruise was made to many seaport cities in the United States and to Guantanamo, Cuba; the third class cruise to the West Coast of the United States, going first to Panama, through the Canal to California, and on to Seattle, Washington. On these cruises many homes were open to the midshipmen, giving them an opportunity to meet interesting persons. Elaborate entertainments were given in their honor, all of which were memorable occasions.
Oscar was graduated from the Naval Academy in the class of 1927, President Coolidge delivering the diplomas on June 2. At the time of graduation, each student received his commission, specifying the ship to which he had been assigned. A six weeks’ course in aviation had been added to the training at the Naval Academy and the graduates were compelled to take this course, upon the completion of which they were given thirty days’ leave for a visit home.
Oscar’s first assignment was to the U.S.S. Saratoga, one of the largest airplane carriers of the United States Navy, which at that time was being constructed in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In March, 1928, the Saratoga was launched, going on her shakedown cruise to Panama, Honolulu, crossing the equator, and on to many other southern Pacific ports. In many of these tropical countries, where beautiful flowers grow profusely, these ships are met by the inhabitants who extend a royal welcome into their country. The girls and women bring leis made of gardenias and orchids and place one around the neck of each officer of the ship. It is customary that all ships which cross the equator perform an elaborate ceremony called King Neptune’s Court. The ship, officers, and crew are inspected, and this being their first time to cross, if found worthy, each man is numbered as “one of their trusty shellbacks,” and is initiated into the “solemn mysteries of the ancient order of the deep.” A large certificate of membership is given, also a pocket size, to show when crossing the equator again. The Saratoga spent one year in these tropical waters, and this cruise was considered one of the best. The ship returned to the coast of California in April 1929. Oscar was then transferred to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Fla., for continued instruction in aviation, which course he completed in February 1930. From this time until the first of June he was assigned to the aircraft squadron of the U.S.S. Wright. His next assignment was to the U.S.S. Chester, which was being constructed at Camden, N. J., he being one of the officers to fit out the ship. He was made material officer and had charge of the buying of aviation equipment. The Chester was commissioned on the 24th day of June, leaving soon afterwards for a cruise of three months and landing at Barcelona, Spain. Much time was spent in Spain, Italy, Greece, Gibraltar, Britain, and other countries. The British admiral was host at a dinner given for the official crew of the Chester. These men had the honor to be presented to royalty and officials of the countries they visited. While on this cruise, Oscar was one of two American aviators ordered to fly from Barcelona to Rome, Italy, to convey a message from the United States sympathizing with Italy in the loss of one of her government aviators. A few hours after his return, he was ordered to go again to Rome to attend the funeral of the aviator.
The Chester returned to the United States and dropped anchor at Chester, Pa., for which city it had been named. The first day on which the ship was open for visitors, 25,000 persons were received. A very valuable silver service was presented by the city of Chester, and a grandfather’s clock was given by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In August of 1930 Oscar was commissioned junior lieutenant. In January, 1931, he was detached from the Chester and assigned to the U.S.S. Chicago, another new ship under construction at the Navy Yard at Mare Island, Calif. He, with five other naval aviators, flew six planes from Norfolk, Va., to California to be placed on the Chicago. For publicity, they flew by way of Chicago, and were met at the airport by the mayor of that city and his council. Upon the completion of this ship, and after being commissioned, it soon left on its first cruise, going to Panama, Honolulu, crossing the equator, thence to the South Sea Islands. The Chicago returned to the coast of California in the spring of 1932, and very soon afterwards Oscar was detached and ordered to go to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Fla., as an instructor in aviation. He made an excellent record at Pensacola, his squadron making the highest average for the year’s work. Oscar was also placed in charge of photographic operations. It was his privilege to fly home many week-ends from Pensacola, and he was the first Hawkinsville boy to fly a plane over the city of Hawkinsville.
In June 1934, Oscar was ordered to Norfolk, Virginia, to report for duty on the U.S.S. Ranger, but was later transferred to the U.S.S. Langley. The aircraft squadron of the Langley was transferred to San Diego, Calif., to begin practice for winter maneuvers. The trip over was made on the Saratoga, the Langley following later. During this practice Oscar and a fellow pilot tied for the highest average made in aviation, all squadrons competing.
On January 31, 1935, a number of planes were being sent to Norfolk, Va., for overhauling, and Oscar requested permission to fly one of these planes. His request was granted, and the first night out was spent in a city in California, and the second in Aberdeen, Texas. On the morning of the third day, in a heavy fog, when flying was impossible, his plane crashed near Millsap, Texas, taking Oscar and his co-pilot, Lieut. John G. Burgess, to their death, February 2, 1935.
A brilliant career was the result of a fixed purpose on the part of a noble boy to serve his country. Gentleness of manner, intellectuality, and loyalty were characteristic of Oscar Pate, Georgia’s generous gift to the cause of aviation.
Martha Louise Pate was born August 20, 1910. She attended public schools in Tifton, Ga., one year, and then entered the Hawkinsville public schools, from which she was graduated with honor. She received an A.B. degree from Wesleyan College and is now teaching mathematics in the Brunswick public schools. May Roberson Pate was born February 20, 1916. After her graduation from Hawkinsville schools she entered Brenau College at Gainesville, Ga., and was pledged to the Phi Mu sorority. Completing two years at Brenau, she entered the University of Alabama, where she is now a student.
Lucius McLendon Pate, second son of Mr. and Mrs. Mack Pate, was born October 4, 1881. McLendon spent his entire life in Hawkinsville, where he received his education in public and private schools, having made excellent records. He attended Mercer University at Macon, and was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. After leaving Mercer he entered the dry goods business and later became associated with The Boston, one of the largest department stores in Middle Georgia, of which firm he was manager and part owner until the time of his death, August 11, 1927. McLendon was always public-spirited and was ever ready to lend a hand to any movement for the development of his city and county. He assisted in organizing the Pulaski Fair Association, of which he was the first chairman. He also assisted in the organization of the Chamber of Commerce of Pulaski County. Hawkinsville deeply deplored the death of McLendon Pate and the passing of The Boston, his pride and joy.
Jesse Haynes Pate, third son, was born April 30, 1885, in Hawkinsville, where he attended public and private schools, always making brilliant records. He attended the Georgia School of Technology in Atlanta. Later he went to Georgia-Alabama Business School, where he completed a course in bookkeeping. He was associated with his father in the sawmill business in Argyle, and was afterwards made bookkeeper for Hawkinsville Wholesale Grocery Company. He went to Macon as bookkeeper for Lamar, Taylor & Riley Drug Company. A few years later the firm Coleman, Meadows, Pate Company was organized. Jesse is now manager, secretary and treasurer of this organization, and is one of Macon’s outstanding business men. He married Louise Jones on April 21, 1923, and their two children are: Clara Louise, born May 10, 1924, and Mary Jessie, born July 29, 1926. Both attended kindergarten in Macon and are now students of the Vineville public school.
Julien Carey Pate, fourth son, born March 2, 1890, attended the public schools in Hawkinsville, graduating with first honor. He was graduated from the Atlanta Medical College, now Emory Medical College. He began the practice of medicine in Valdosta, Ga., and moved to Macon, where he specialized in surgery, having been identified with the hospitals of that city. During the boom in Florida he moved to Tampa, where he has been quite successful in the practice of medical surgery. Julien married Mabel Pridgen, of Valdosta, September 12, 1916. Their son, Julien Carey Pate, Jr., born September 6, 1917, finished a very successful high school career in Tampa and is now a student of medicine at Emory Medical College.
William Nelson Pate, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Mack Pate, and known as Willie Pate, was born February 2, 1895. Willie was graduated from Hawkinsville public schools in 1912. -In 1915 he entered the mercantile business in Hawkinsville, owning and oper
ating a men’s clothing store. Two years later, during the World War, he enlisted in the United States Army and served two years overseas, having closed his business temporarily. He returned to Hawkinsville and became associated with his brother, McLendon, in the mercantile business. They afterwards organized the Pulaski Auto Company, of which Willie is now president, and is associated with his brother, Oscar. Willie Pate has served as city commissioner, president of the Pulaski County Fair Association, and president of the Chamber of Commerce of Pulaski County. He is now a member of the school board, and commander of the American Legion. He married Catherine Polhill, of Hawkinsville, July 7, 1918, and their daughter, Catherine, was born September 19, 1920. She is a student of the Hawkinsville High School and is making a splendid record in school and in music.
Anna Elizabeth Pate, born 1857, married William B. Steele. Mrs. Steele died in 1921. Their children are: Louis Carroll, who married Hermione Brown, and Mary Anna, who married Eugene A. Bailey, and John Pate Steele.
Mary Frances Pate, born in December, 1859. She was married to R. J. Taylor in 1885, and died in February, 1889.
Josiah Warren Pate, son of Major John H. Pate and Zelphia Ann Boatright Pate, was born in Hawkinsville, Georgia, September 7, 1866. He was named for Josiah Warren, a dear friend of Major Pate. He attended the University of Georgia. There his genial personality won for him many lasting friends. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. In 1889 he was married to Martha Louise Prevatt, of Sanford, Florida. After his marriage he returned to Hawkinsville, where he engaged in the lumber and farming business. In 1897 he moved with his wife and three children to Quitman, Georgia, Brooks County. Here he was associated with his brother, McC. Pate, and his nephew, 0. W. Pate, in the lumber business. He spent the remaining years of his life in Quitman. At the time of his death he was a popular auditor and public accountant there. All who knew him loved him, and he loved people. He made a comfortable home for his family and was a devoted husband and father. His family found him their most interesting companion. Wherever he was life was brighter, and when he left it seemed the sun had gone down. His children and grandchildren are as follows:
Rollie Anthony Pate, oldest son, married Mary Jane O’Hagin, Fernandina, Florida. Their children are Mary Louise Pate and Rollie Anthony Pate, Jr.
Josiah Warren Pate, Jr., second son, Monticello, Florida, married Tillie Mae Davis, Quitman, Georgia. Their children are: Josephine and Emmala Pate.
Marian Louise Pate, only daughter, married Jesse Outland Johnston, Statesboro, Georgia. Their children are: Margaret Ann and Joseph Pate Johnston.
Rol Anthony Pate, son of John Haynes Pate and Zelphia Boatright Pate, was born in Hawkinsville, Pulaski County, Georgia, in 1869. He spent his entire life in Hawkinsville, being educated in the public schools of that city. He later served as vice president of the Hawkinsville Bank & Trust Company for a number of years, and was also interested in farming and live stock. He was greatly respected by all of his associates because of his sterling character and integrity, and was always identified with the civic and business
progress of that community. Rol Anthony Pate was married in 1894 to Lila Duncan of Perry, Georgia, the daughter of Judge C. C. Duncan and Eliza Pope Duncan. He died February 2, 1934, and was buried in Hawkinsville.
The following children were born to Rol Anthony Pate and Lila Duncan Pate: Clinton Duncan Pate, educated at Mercer University, served as lieutenant in the World War, and married Maddelle Sympson of Kentucky, later moving to Los Angeles, Calif., where he was connected with the Lee Tire & Rubber Company.
John Stetson Pate attended schools of Hawkinsville and Macon, Georgia, afterward becoming engaged in the automobile business in Hawkinsville and Atlanta.
Rol Anthony Pate, Jr., graduated from the public schools of Hawkinsville, and entered the cotton business in Alabama, later moving to Memphis, Tenn. He married Sula Moore of Birmingham, Ala.
Lila Duncan Pate was educated at Georgia State College for Women, and married Henry Mills Garner of Buford, Georgia.
James Pope Pate attended the public schools of Hawkinsville, later entering business in that city.
William Bunn Pate was educated at Georgia School of Technology, and afterwards was connected with the Fulton National Bank, of Atlanta.