A HISTORY: ALBERT SIDNEY JOHNSTON CAMP #983, SONS OF CONFEDERATE
VETERANS. Compiled by W. B. Woodruff Jr.; 15 March 2013.
In the early 1990s R. L. "Bob" Holloway lived and operated a dairy farm near Greenwood. He had always been active in civic affairs, and recently had served as County Judge, so he had a wide acquaintance in north Texas.
One day he told me he had been attending meetings in Denton of their local SCV Camp, had come to enjoy them, and invited me to go with him to a future monthly meeting. They met at barbecue restaurant in Denton and had supper together to commence their meetings. I liked barbecue so accepted the invitation!
At the time Denton had a small Camp, maybe a dozen members; and its commander and maybe founding member was Bruce Cunningham, along with his father Don Cunningham -- both today members of Camp 983. It seemed that nearly every month Holloway would locate' another prospective member and invite him. Within about a year there were five of us from Wise County regularly attending members of the Denton Camp: Holloway, Woodruff, Maddox, Florence (Paradise), and Slonaker (Chico)•
Within two years or so the idea came to us that we should look into organizing a Camp in Wise County. We began holding meetings in Decatur, for invitation of others and discussion of a possible new Camp, in addition to the regular meetings in Denton. Another member of the Denton Camp was Prank Andrews, who lived at Perrin, in Jack County - much closer to Decatur than Denton - so he was also interested. There was in Decatur at this time a minister, then trying to establish a Nazarene Church in Decatur, whose meetings were being held across from the Courthouse, on east side of the Decatur square. His name was Jerry Spann; he joined our group and invited us to hold our meetings in his church.
In the course of these meetings we learned that there had been, back in the 1920s, an SCV Camp in Decatur, organized and led by Guinn Williams as its commander, with John L. Gentry as adjutant. Both were well known names in Wise County. Guinn Williams had been elected to Congress from this district, back in the 1920s - our only Congressman ever from Wise County. He had a son, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, who had achieved some fame out in Hollywood, as an actor. Promptly we decided that our new Camp would be organized under the same name and number as the original Camp back in the 1920s. What was memorable to me was that, although we were certainly very familiar with the Southern Confederacy, and the organization known as the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), almost none of us could recall ever hearing of the Sons of Confederate veterans (SCV).
By 1996 we had completed organizing our Camp. Our letter dated June 11, 1996, addressed to Greg Hector, then Texas Division Commander, applied for our Charter, with transfer applications from the Denton to the Decatur Camp of the six members above named, plus new-member applications from eleven others. Later that year we held our "Charter Meeting" at a cafe in Bridgeport; present for presentation of the Charter, and all attendant ceremony, were ·several Texas Division officers including the newly elected Division Commander, Carl Lehmberg.
Soon after, Rev. Spann completed construction of his new church building in west Decatur, just under Sunset Hill; our meetings were moved there for the next few years, maybe 4 or 5. Bob Holloway was of course elected as our first and founding commander, and he continued to hold this office, by unanimous election, until his death in the year 2000. Ray Florence had been our Lieutenant Commander during the same period, and of course took over as commander after death of Bob Holloway. Roy Slonaker had served as our adjutant and treasurer from the beginning. Whatever success our Camp has had or may hereafter be achieved is due to the efforts and leadership of these three, during the founding/organizing period.
Many others joined our Camp and all contributed materially to our success. However, our losses were also numerous during this period. Rev. Spann was transferred by his church to a new (and distant) location, leaving us for first time without a chaplain. But our biggest cause of losses were the deaths of many good men, whose memory remains fresh in our minds. A few of these I can name are Gene Boney, Paul Clemens, Ralph Dodson, Olin Merrett (of Forrestburg), Cecil Pegues, Roy Slonaker, and brothers Paul and James Wolff (of Bridgeport) • I vaguely :recall that by time our Charter was finalized we had added new names, to a total of 25. However we had frequent losses also, from the usual variety of causes, as men moved away, changed jobs, changed working hours, had health problems, etc. One such good man so. lost was Gary Johnson, who had served as 2nd Lt. Cmdr., but was transferred by his company to a new location. Another was Wayne Dennis of Alvord. If you review rosters of the Camp , you will note year after year the addition of new names, while others are lost. From memory there are surviving Charter Members, from. 1996, only the following still active in the Camp: Florence, Maddox, Woodruff, and Wooley.
Also from memory, our biggest membership was about 75, around the time the Camp was 10 years old: but now has settled at about 55. In our early years we were quite active in. conducting ceremonies at Confederate burial sites all over Wise County; we participated with other Camps both in this and in other counties. However, this activity was severely curtailed in recent years by new regulations of the Veterans Administration limiting availability of stones and markers. This likely was result of heavy casualties of our armed forces in the Middle East in recent years, greatly increasing demand for the monuments. But before this restriction came about we had emplaced about 40 markers, in nearly all the major cemeteries of this county. We like the bronze type marker of the VA; these you will find today, prominently set in most of our active cemeteries (and some not so active; Wise County has more than a hundred cemeteries in total!)
Sons of Confederate Veterans Texas Division
Albert Sidney Johnston