Andrew Jackson "A. J." Reese, Jr.
Proud of His Service for His Country
Written & Submitted by Debora Reese
A spring breeze blew gently through the open window of the small farmhouse in the small community of Hinton, Choctaw County, Alabama, on April 19, 1912. A bright sparkle gleamed in a proud father’s eye as he held his newborn son, naming the infant after himself, Andrew Jackson Reese, and they would call him “A. J.” Little did Andrew Sr. know just how proud his eldest child would make both him and his wife, Daisy in the years to come as he smiled down at A. J.
As years went by, the Reese family grew with a total of eight living children. Andrew Sr., a doctor by trade, traveled about Choctaw County, Alabama and Clarke County, Mississippi, making calls on the sick and ailing. A. J., being the eldest was given numerous responsibilities, with his father gone like he was. Before sunrise, A. J.’s day started with his chores and helping his mother oversee his siblings. During the school season, he would lead those that were school age off on their walk to school, miles away in Butler, only to return after school for all to finish their chores before the end of the day.
With times as they were, A. J. finished school, earning his high school diploma at the age of twenty-one. It wasn’t long after that, that he took a job, to help ends meet, traveling about as an insurance salesman. A. J. knew this was not what he wanted to do for a living the rest of his life. His dream was to become an attorney, and with that dream he seized everything he could get his hands on pertaining to law, reading in what spare time he did have.
The news reports buzzed of Germany, Japan and the onset of World War II. Young men all about were receiving draft notices, but A. J. did not wait for his. Still single and at the age of thirty, A. J. arrived at Camp Shelby and enlisted into the army on June 13, 1942. He was placed in the 314th Regiment, 79th Division, Company G as a Mortar Gunner and shipped out to help defend his country.
A. J. arrived in Europe, crossing enemy lines. Arrived in Normandy thirty-six hours after D-Day, and fought battles in Northern France and Shireland, France as well.
The onset of winter was on with several inches snow covering the ground on October 3, 1944. It was this day in Lunveville, France, that A. J. was wounded in the line of duty. Artillery shell fragments penetrated his thigh. To help the wound as well as numb the pain, while waiting for a friendly troop to arrive, he packed the cold snow on the wound. Help did arrive and he was taken to a military hospital where he had a three-day stay. The shrapnel was never removed. He would live with it in his thigh for the remainder of his life. He was shipped to Naples, Italy to recuperate.
Upon his discharge from the hospital, A. J. returned to his old buddies of Company G and found some new faces as well, now members of their company. He was once again heading out to do to his service. On the third night after his return to the front line in France, he and his Battalion were captured by Germans. They were marched across the Rhine to a POW Camp in Southern Germany, and from there sent to Stuttgart. It was from this point they were sent to another POW Camp at Falling Bostile, Camp #11B, and then on to a special interrogation camp in Northern Germany believed to be Sand Bostel. During these marches they were only given cold half cooked rice thrown to them from the back of a truck and baths consisted of cold water being dumped on them from something that looked like a dump truck in the freezing winter time.
Once reaching the special interrogation camp, A. J. was thrown into a “black box” (the size of a coffin, stood upright) for ten days, after being interrogated by the Nazis. During this ten day ordeal, he was only given three-fourths a cup of coffee a day. Upon release from the black box, A. J. was allowed to make one call on their radio, which Ham Operators all over the US and Canada picked up and wrote his message down mailing it to his parents in Alabama. While in the POW Camps they were given three potatoes every other day and then sour crout soup. Water was scarce to none and they had to catch the water when it rained. They were given no food at all the last ten days, he was a prisoner, with the war coming to an end. A. J. Reese is quoted saying, “The thought and trauma off all this will last me all of the days of my life, and sometimes I have bad dreams of all of it. Life in the camps were unbelievable hard.” He received numerous medals for his service, including the Purple Heart.
Upon returning to the States, A. J. hitchhiked his way from Camp Shelby to his home in Alabama to see and be with his family. It was at this point he began working in an attorney’s office in Butler to further his knowledge of law. He finally achieved his dream, traveling to Jackson and took the two day bar exam. Passing the exam he began his own business in Quitman while living in a boarding house. He tried his best to keep his fees as an attorney at a minimum so the not so fortunate could afford representation.
After dating for a while, it was on December 27, 1959 that A.J. took the hand of Mary June Rogers of DeSoto Community as his wife and their family began to grow two years later with the birth of their first child.
Knowing his Almighty Father, he became a member of DeSoto Methodist Church and later moved his membership to DeSoto Baptist Church where he served as a deacon. He also was a member of the 32nd Degree Mason of Scottish Rights.
Through his career, A.J. served as attorney for the Clarke County Supervisors and as Quitman City Judge. It was late in the 1990’s that he retired from his profession. After retiring, he continued to wear a suit everyday of the week, as he had done for many years. He also continued going to his office for a while for it was a habit and he enjoyed visiting with the people of Quitman.
A.J. was well known for his honesty and kind heartedness. He was always considerate of his fellow man. He was well-respected as an attorney and Clarke county citizen.
His memory and spirit will continue to live on through his family and those who lives he has touched over the years.
*This information was obtained by personal interviews, military records, and a personal written account by Andrew J. Reese, Jr.'s memories of military service found in his law office after his death on February 6, 2006.
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