Cornelius Charlton

Welch Daily News
March 7, 1990

War Hero To Receive Ceremonial Burial Denied 39 Years Ago

For the past 39 years, the remains of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. Cornelius Charlton of the U.S. Army, have been resting in a long-abandoned family cemetery.

A native of East Gulf near Beckley, Sgt. Charlton was killed in action during this country's "police action" in Korea on March 15, 1951. According to his brother, Arthur L. Charlton of Coalwood, the deceased was denied a ceremonial burial at Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery, because he was black.

His family brought his remains to the Bryant Memorial Cemetery located out on W.V. Highway 120, between Bramwell and Pocahontas for burial, where other relatives of Charlton's mother were buried.

Charlton was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress, the nation's highest award for valor. Also, a bridge was named in his honor, located seven miles outside of Princeton (Bluestone Gorge); a tree grows in the Bronx, NY. dedicated to his memory and a ferry boat bore his name.

On March 10, Sgt. Charlton's body will be reinterred close to his place of birth as Beckley's American Legion Post 32 and an honor guard from Fort Knox, KY, give the forgotten hero the burial he deserved.

Release forms have been obtained by Post 32 Commander John E. Shumate to exhume Charlton's body and bring it back to Raleigh County.

Shumate and his post's efforts are part of a national campaign organized by the Medal of Honor Society and chartered by the U.S. Congress called America Discovers Her Hometown Medal of Honor Heroes.

Last July 4, the Medal of Honor Society started a two-year drive to locate the "lost heroes." The project calls for students and communities to join in the research effort.

A January article in the Beckley newspaper, "Register-Herald," which alerted readers of the campaign, led to the discovery of Charlton's grave. Shumate said.

A memorial reception will be held at the Melton Mortuary, March 9, between 7 and 9 p.m., and all are welcome, Shumate said. The hero's Medal of Honor will be on display, along with his Purple Heart and other mementos.

A funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. before the remains arc laid to rest at the American Legion Cemetery. The service will be conducted by Fort Knox, KY, Chaplain Russell Tipkin. American Legion Post 32 Commander John Shumate will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Helen Dobson will sing a medley of songs.

Remarks will be delivered by U.S. Rep. Nick Jo Rahall, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler and Arthur Charlton, the deceased soldier's brother.

Sgt. Charlton was remembered by his mother, 92-year-old Clara Charlton of Bronx, NY. as a stay-at- home sort in his youth.

Already a veteran of World War II, Charlton died when he fought to the top of a ridge that had been holding up a regiment for three days.

A narrative released by the Medal of Honor Society said Charlton's stint showed "indomitable courage, superb leadership, and gallant self- sacrifice."

"He had an office job, but he volunteered for combat," his brother said.

According to John Shumate, a memorial trust fund has been set up in the name of Sgt. Charlton.

Flowers may be sent to the Melton Mortuary at 1200 Harper Road, and contributions for the transfer of the remains and maintenance of the new grave may be sent to the American Legion Cemetery Fund, 210 Westwood Drive, Beckley. WV, 25801.

Military and Wartime