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Luther Alexander Waybright

Courtesy Steve Bodkins

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Luther Alexander Waybright
1894-1918

"World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. One fifth of the world’s population was attacked by this deadly virus. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history."

The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918, National Archives and Records Administration

Luther Alexander Waybright was born on August 23, 1894, in Osceola, Randolph County, West Virginia. His parents were Isaac P. and Sidney Ellen Arbogast Waybright, who were married in Pendleton County, West Virginia, on September 13, 1881. At that time Isaac was a 30-year-old widower. His first wife was Elizabeth Mullenax.

Isaac and Sidney Ellen Waybright were the parents of eight children: Fatanna (Mrs. Charles Phillip Judy), Barbara S. (Mrs. Ninevah Davis), Lena Marie (Mrs. Charles O. Rhodes), Hiner Ephraim, Donald, Zula Catherine (Mrs. Harrison Roy; Mrs. Wilbur Newton Gilmer), Luther Alexander, and Moses (“Mose”) Randolph Waybright.

Following the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. When the call for volunteers failed to produce the needed one million troops to support the war effort, the Selective Service instituted the draft with the first registration on June 5, 1917, for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second was held on June 5, 1918, for men who turned 21 since the first registration.

Luther responded to the call for the initial World War I draft by registering on June 5, 1917, in Randolph County, along with his two older brothers, Donald and Hiner. He was 22 years of age and was a farmer working for Harness Teter near his home in Osceola. Because no photos are available for many young men at the time, World War I draft registration cards are a good source of demographic and descriptive information. Luther was single and claimed no exemptions from the draft. His registration card describes him as tall and stout with blue eyes and light brown hair. Fortunately for posterity a reliable photo of Luther Waybright exists.

draft registration

World War I draft registration card for Luther A. Waybright. National Archives and Records Administration


Hiner, who was 30 when he registered for the draft, was single and employed as a farmer in Osceola. He was slender and of medium height with blue eyes and brown hair. He served as a private during World War I in Company F of the 57th Infantry.

When he registered for the draft, brother Donald was 28 and was married to Ira Bell Teter. He was slender and of medium height with dark blue eyes and light brown hair. Like his brothers, he also was as a farmer in Osceola.

Luther’s younger brother, Moses, having reached the age of 21, registered for the draft during the second registration on June 5, 1918. He, also, was tall and of medium build with blue eyes and brown hair. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 2, 1918, and was discharged after the signing of the Armistice.

insignia

Insignia for the 11th (“Lafayette”) Division in World War I

When Luther Waybright entered the U.S. Army, he was assigned to the 71st Infantry Regiment. The 71st Infantry Regiment was organized in August 1918 at Camp Meade, Maryland, and was assigned to the 11th Infantry Division, known as the “Lafayette” Division. The 11th Division was first formed as a National Guard Division in 1917 from units in Michigan and Wisconsin. Later in the year it became the 32nd [Infantry] Division. Re-formed in August 1918 as the 11th Infantry, the now-Army Division immediately went through intensive training at Camp Meade in preparation for combat in Europe. The unit was fully equipped and was prepared to embark for duty overseas (the advance party having sailed for England on October 25, 1918) on November 11, 1918, the day the Armistice was signed. The Division was quickly disbanded on November 29, 1918.

On October 3, 1918, while still at Camp Meade, Private Luther Waybright succumbed to pneumonia, probably brought on by the Spanish influenza pandemic. The War Department estimated that influenza sickened more than one million soldiers and killed almost 30,000 before they even departed for combat in France.

Private Luther Alexander Waybright was laid to rest in the Isaac Waybright Cemetery near the Sinks of Gandy in Randolph County, where his mother was already interred, and where, a little more than a decade later, his father would be buried.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout
August 2016

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Luther Alexander Waybright

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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