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Eighth Generation

1513. Walter Thomas DURHAM was born on 7 Oct 1924 in Sumner County, Tennessee.114,237 Walter T Durham <https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K8YQ-4GN>
United States, World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
military_service 14 Apr 1943 Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia, United States
birth: 1924 TENNESSEE
Name: Walter T Durham
Name (Original): DURHAM WALTER T
Event Type: Military Service
Event Date: 14 Apr 1943
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Event Place: Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia, United States
Residence Place
Race: White
Citizenship Status: citizen
Birth Year: 1924
Birthplace: TENNESSEE
Education Leve: l4 years of high school
Civilian Occupation
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Military Rank: Private
Army Branch: No branch assignment
Army Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source Reference: Civil Life
Serial Number: 34730249
Affiliate Publication Title: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946
Affiliate ARC Identifier: 1263923
Box Film Number: 08413.263 He died on 24 May 2013 in Tennessee. Tennessee state historian and longtime Gallatin resident Walter Durham died Friday, May 24, at age 88. / The Tennessean/FILE

Written by Sarah Kingsbury and Joey Garrison

Filed Under Gallatin
Gallatin News

Walter Durham was appointed state historian in 2002.

Lifelong Gallatin resident Walter Thomas Durham, Tennessee’s state historian for the past decade and author of 24 books on Tennessee history, who left a lasting mark especially in his hometown, died on Friday at the age of 88.

Durham, a longtime Gallatin businessman and a walking encyclopedia of Tennessee and Sumner County history, was appointed state historian in 2002 by then-Gov. Don Sundquist. He had already served as president of the Tennessee Historical Society, founding president of the Tennessee Heritage Alliance, later renamed the Tennessee Preservation Trust, and chair of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

His two dozen books spanned a wide range of areas: the Union Army’s occupation of Nashville during the Civil War, Tennesseans’ roles during westward expansion to California, and a commemorative timeline of Gallatin’s history for the city’s bicentennial, for example.

“An awful lot of history passed with him,” said Kenneth Thomson, president of the Sumner County Historical Society, who knew Durham for decades and helped him with many of his projects. “And it’s a good thing he recorded it.”

Durham, the recipient of numerous recognitions for his writing, never made much money from his works, often giving them away to organizations that would benefit from them. Durham’s final book, “Grasslands,” focused on an ambitious Gallatin development that failed after the Great Depression hit. It was a piece of history that he experienced personally, having attended the upscale community’s inaugural horse race in 1930 organized by the Southern Grasslands Hunt and Racing Foundation.

Durham didn’t have any other books planned, but was working before his death on an article about a Tennessee Baptist missionary who went to China in the 1860s. The work was mostly completed and may be posthumously published, said his assistant of 50 years, Glenda Milliken.

“He was everything that everybody thought he was: the southern gentleman, treated everyone fairly, and he did everything he could to help the history projects,” Milliken said. “He was called on often to speak, present programs, and he just didn’t turn people down.”

Durham hired Milliken when he was working as president of Gallatin Aluminum Products. The pair never stopped working together – not even after Durham moved from Gallatin to a Nashville retirement community last year.

“He called me practically every day and we’d talk about what we were going to do,” she said.

Artist and historian Bill Puryear could not remember when he did not know Durham, having grown up with him at the First United Methodist Church in Gallatin where Durham sat on the pew in front of him. As adults, Puryear and Durham’s families were friends. Puryear served as chairman of the Sumner County Library Board, which published Durham’s first book about early Sumner County history, and a succession of others.

“Beyond that, we were the closest of friends,” Puryear said. “He was my mentor as a historian.”

Puryear said Durham’s character and attention to detail were qualities that made him beloved both as a person and as an author.

“Walter was always a gentleman, very modest and courteous in his demeanor, religious about getting his facts right on history,” Puryear said. “If he wrote it down and testified to it, you could count on it being accurate. He explored aspects of history, both local and Tennessee, in areas where nobody has ever gone before. So his books will stand as reference for hundreds of years.”

Durham, born Oct. 7, 1924, is survived by his wife of 64 years, Anna Durham, as well as four children, four grandchildren, a sister and a niece.

He attended public schools in Gallatin and earned degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Vanderbilt University. He later served in both Africa and Italy as a member of the U.S. Air Force in World War II. He was a partner of Durham Building Supply Company in Gallatin from 1948 to 1973 and was a founding president of Gallatin Aluminum Products Co. He also served a stint as president of the Gallatin Chamber of Commerce and served as chairman of both Wholesale Plumbing and Electric Supply Co. and First and Peoples National Bank

State Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, drafted a resolution during the past session that would name a bridge over the Cumberland River, connecting Gallatin and Lebanon in Sumner and Wilson counties, after Durham. Durham has a special connection to the bridge, as it was his grandfather, Tom Durham, who championed its original construction when he was a state senator in the late 1920s. It was also his grandfather to whom Durham attributed his love of history.

“I really was hoping he’d be there when we put up the plaque,” Haile said. “You don’t find any better people than Walter and Anna Durham — in Hendersonville, TN

Walter Thomas DURHAM and Anna (UNKNOWN) were married.