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William Bradley Umstead, 1895-1954. Chronology.


1895

May 13: William is born to Lulie Lunsford and John W. Umstead in Mangum Township, Durham, N.C.

1912

William graduates high school in Durham; enters the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.

1916

After graduation from UNC, he begins teaching history at a high school in Kinston, N.C.

1917

April 6: United States Congress declares war on Germany; the following month, Umstead volunteers for the army, identifying himself at induction as a "high school instructor and farmer."
May-August: Has "hard and intense" basic training at First Officers Training Corps at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia.
August 15: He is commissioned a second lieutenant and receives orders transferring him to Camp Jackson in South Carolina, where the 81st "Wildcat" Division is being organized.
August 19-28: While on leave, Lieutenant Umstead visits Kinston, Roxboro, and his parents in Durham County. In his diary he writes: " . . . probably the saddest time I have ever spent was Mon. night. Aug. 27, when I left home. I left father and mother in tears . . . . To leave them, old and feeble at home alone was the most difficult task of my life."
August 29: He reports to Camp Jackson and is attached to the 81st Division's 317th Machine-Gun Battalion. His eye for detail and his organizational skills are immediately recognized by his superiors, who assign him to be a supply officer for the battalion.
October-November: The 81st was among the first national divisions organized, but its overseas deployment was delayed when half of its men were transferred to other units in October, 1917. Umstead's battalion continues its training at Camp Jackson.
December 31: Umstead is promoted to first lieutenant. Earlier this month the new Soviet government in Russia opens peace negotiations with Germany. Germany plans to redirect all of its military resources to the Western Front, hoping to be victorious before American troops can arrive in Europe in great numbers.

1918

January 27: Umstead, still at Camp Jackson, is transferred from Company A to Company C in the 317th Machine-Gun Battalion.
February-June: Umstead continues his supply work for the battalion at Camp Jackson.
July: Umstead and other troops in the 81st Division are transferred to Camp Hancock in Georgia. From there they are to be sent by train to New York. Just before the 317th Battalion departs for New York, Umstead receives a letter dated July 13, 1918, from his only brother, John. Concerned about William's fate, John expresses his love for his younger brother, along with his regrets that "we have never seemed as close as we might to each other." In addition to discussing other family matters, including the welfare of their parents, John confides that if William is killed in Europe, he plans to enlist immediately in order to uphold the Umstead family's honor and "to die willingly for this cause."
July 21: Lieutenant Umstead and the rest of his battalion leave Camp Hancock and stay for a week in camps in New York, preparing for the voyage to Europe.
July 31: Umstead's battalion and other elements of the 81st Division begin their trans-Atlantic voyage from New York.
August 11: Umstead arrives in Liverpool, England, and the next day arrives by train at Camp Winnall Down in Winchester. On August 14, he and fellow soldiers do some local sightseeing, visiting Winchester Castle.
August 16: The 317th boards a train to South Hampton. From there two days later the 81st Division sails across the English Channel for France, landing at Cherbourg on August 19. Umstead's battalion resumes training near Tonnere.
September 18: The 317th and other division troops move to the Bruyeres region, then to the Saint-Dié sector in eastern France, between the Moselle River and the Swiss border. There on the quiet and inactive "Vosges Front" they continue to drill and build up the army's supplies.
September 26: The Meuse-Argonne offensive begins, although the "Wildcat" Division, including Umstead's battalion, is held in reserve and not yet committed to combat. Within days the offensive stalls.
October 4: The Meuse-Argonne offensive resumes. Over the next few weeks, fresh American troops are rotated to the front. Umstead's battalion, not yet engaged, continues its rigorous training.
November 1-2: Umstead's battalion and the rest of the 81st take trains northward to Sorcy, Sampigny, and to other regional towns to enter the fighting in the Meuse sector.
November 7: The 81st Division moves toward the front, where they relieve other troops and occupy a 14-mile line near Manheulles.
November 9: The 81st attacks as part of a renewed general offensive. Lieutenant Umstead is busy supplying various elements of the 317th Battalion, which has one company attached to the 322nd Infantry, and three companies in brigade reserve at Chatillon.
November 10. The division captures the town of Abaucourt and other strategic areas in a three-mile advance.
November 11: At 11:00 a.m. guns along the entire front fall silent; a comprehensive ceasefire begins; Germany effectively surrenders.
December: The 317th and the rest of the 81st Division are ordered to march to Chatillon-sur-Seine, where the troops continue their duties, monitor the peace, and begin to enjoy furloughs and sightseeing.

1919

January 22- February 4: On leave, Lieutenant Umstead travels to various locations in France, visiting Paris and taking a ship from Marseille to tour Nice, Monte Carlo, and Monaco.
February 9: Umstead resigns his commission, citing a need to return early to the United States to care for his ailing parents. A document in the Umstead Collection places him at Massingy, France, on February 18.
March 1-7: Umstead is relieved of his duties and ordered by his commander to proceed immediately to St. Aignan in Loire et Cher. There, under the status of "casual officer," he is to report for his return home.
March 28: He reports to the port at Brest and returns to the United States aboard the SS. America.
April 6: Every American soldier returning from Europe had to be screened for diseases. At Camp Devens in Massachusetts, Umstead is "deloused" and prepared for discharge.
April 9 : Umstead is officially discharged at Camp (now Fort) Dix in New Jersey.
September: The former lieutenant enters Trinity College (now Duke University) to study law.

1921

After passing the bar, Umstead begins his law practice that summer.

1922

He is elected prosecuting attorney for Durham County Recorder's Court.

1926

He is elected solicitor for North Carolina's Tenth Judicial District, which includes Durham, Orange, Granville, Person, and Alamance counties.

1929

September 5: Umstead marries Merle Davis of Rutherfordton, North Carolina.

1932

November: A Democrat, Umstead is elected to represent North Carolina's Sixth District in the United States Congress.

1944

August: He is elected chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee, serving two years in that position, until November 1946.

1946

December 18: Umstead is appointed U.S. Senator by North Carolina Governor Robert Cherry, filling the position vacated on the death of Senator Josiah W. Bailey.

1948

May: Umstead's bid to be elected to a full term in the United States Senate fails; he is defeated in the Democratic primary by J. Melville Broughton.

1952

November 4: He is elected governor of North Carolina.

1953

January 8: Only three days after his inauguration, Governor Umstead suffers a serious heart attack. Slowly he regains his health and months later is able to resume most of his official duties on a part-time basis.

1954

November 7: After further cardiac problems, Governor Umstead dies in Watts Hospital in Durham, N.C.

Work Consulted: A.W. Stewart entry on Umstead in William Powell ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (University of North Carolina Press, 1996.)

Titles by William Bradley Umstead