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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Ribbon-cutting ceremony honors World War II hero's memory

Descendants of Walter Scott Brown and people who worked to name a section of U.S. Highway 69 in his honor gather to cut the ribbon marking the end of the campaign to purchase signs in Brown's honor for the highway. (Photos by Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

PLEASANTON – About 70 people, most of them related to the late Walter Scott Brown, gathered at Cedar Crest Lodge east of Pleasanton on Sunday, July 23, for a ribbon-cutting for new signs that would name a section of U.S. Highway 69 in his honor.

Brown was a Navy aviation machinist from Pleasanton who was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. During the attack, Brown tried to get a patrol seaplane in the air but was killed as Japanese planes strafed the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

Brown, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., was awarded a commendation posthumously, and a Navy destroyer escort ship that bore his name performed escort duty in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.

Jason Day and his 4-year-old daughter Livilyn sign the guest book at a table filled with photos of Walter Scott Brown and other members of the Brown family who served in World War II.

Officially named the “AMM2c Walter Scott Brown Memorial Highway,” the 10-mile stretch of U.S. 69 which runs from the interchange of Kansas Highway 52 going east to Butler, Mo., and the interchange of K-52 going west to Mound City. AMM2c stands for Aviation Machinist’s Mate Second Class.

Morgan Brown, a nephew of the World War II hero, and Alison Hamilton, president and curator of the Trading Post Historical Society, acted as moderators for the event. They worked together to raise nearly $14,000 for the signs to be erected on that section of highway.

Brown thanked the Linn County Commission, the city of Pleasanton, the Mound City Masonic Lodge No. 33, the American Legion Hewitt New Post No. 248 and the American Legion Auxiliary for their help in raising money to install the signs.

Alison Hamilton, president and curator for the Trading Post Historical Society, and Morgan Brown, a nephew of the World War II hero, were credited for their work in making signs a reality for the section of highway.

Kevin Barnes, a history teacher at Yates Center (Kan.) Junior/Senior High, said he worked nearly three years to get that section of the highway named for Walter Brown. He spoke of the contribution that state Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) and state Rep. Pat Proctor (R-Leavenworth) made in carrying the bill memorializing Walter Brown before their respective chambers of the Kansas Legislature.

He said Gov. Laura Kelly signed the bill in April 2022.

Barnes said he first learned of Walter Brown’s heroism when he went to school with Brown’s great nephew, Timothy Scott Perkins. He first got involved in the project in August 2020 when he was looking at the Kansas history geeks Facebook page and saw mention of a list of U.S. Navy ships that were named after cities in Kansas.

Roberta Brown Stringer, center, at 87 the niece and oldest living relative of Walter Scott Brown, speaks about her memories of her uncle. She came from Wichita to attend the event.

He posted about the ship named after Walter Brown and then he posted it on a Linn County history page. That led to more discussion on the life and death of Walter Brown and then he contacted Tyson, who was on the Senate Transportation Committee.

Proctor said that he learned that Barnes was to testify before the House committee, he went to his office and looked up Walter Brown on the internet.

“Wow, what an amazing man,” he said.

However, after viewing photos of other family members who had served in the military and talking to their descendants, he was even more impressed.

State Rep. Pat Proctor of Leavenworth talks about how impressed he was with not only Walter Brown but his whole family.

“What an amazing family of service,” he said, adding that not only his brothers but other members of Walter Brown’s family have served, generation after generation.

He said that while the highway sign will be a marker to make the family proud, it will be more than that.

“It’s not just for the family, it’s for the entire state of Kansas and especially for the young people here,” Barnes said. “Because I’ll guarantee you that when this sign goes up on the side of the road, somebody, some little kid’s going to ask their mom or dad, sitting back and looking out the window, ‘Who is Walter Scott Brown?’

“Now mom or dad may not know, but they might say, ‘Hey, look it up,’ or they might look it up up and then they’re going to tell that young person about this man’s courage at Kaneohe Bay.”

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