Conley Odell Adkins
Army Private Conley Odell Adkins was born on April 1, 1924, in Hamlin, Lincoln County, West Virginia, to William Blackburn Adkins (“Will”; 1880-1959) and Nora May Gibson Adkins (1899-1927). Conley’s grandparents were Blackburn Barrett Adkins and Judith Lovejoy. His mother Nora died young as the result of contracting typhoid fever. Data from the 1930 Federal Census show that Conley had one sister—Eva (c. 1920-2011)—who was approximately three years older. Around 1942, Will and two brothers (George Washington and Matthew) moved to Jackson County, Ohio, where they first rented and then owned a farm. One account of their lives indicates the move to Ohio was possibly due to the lingering effects of the Great Depression in their home county in West Virginia. Eva Adkins would remain in Ohio for the rest of her life and married Ora L. Crabtree.
U.S. Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, state that Conley Odell Adkins entered the service at Huntington, West Virginia, on May 11, 1943. At that time, he registered that he had a grammar school education and was an automobile serviceman in civilian life, apparently having abandoned the family farm for a more urban career. He also indicated he was single, with dependents; Conley and Belva Mae Triplett had a son, David Conley Adkins (1944-1987). (After Conley’s death, Mae married James Walter Smith of Branchland, Lincoln County, and this union produced three more sons and five daughters.) David Conley Adkins and his wife Marcella Burke Adkins had four children: David Conley Jr., Michael Odell, Steven Scott, and Tina Louise Adkins. Thus, Conley’s name lives on in the generation of his grandchildren. An April 8, 1987, obituary in the Charleston Daily Mail notes that at the time of his death, David (Conley’s son) had one grandson, adding another generation to Conley’s legacy.
Private Conley Adkins saw action in two phases of the European Theater during World War II. After his training, he served with the 45th Division, 157th Infantry, during Operation Husky—the invasion of Sicily. Although less well known than the invasion at Normandy, the Allied invasion of Sicily was the largest amphibian assault of the war and was the first step in getting the Allies positioned on the continent of Europe. Having survived that campaign, Pvt. Adkins then became part of the Normandy invasion. Wounded during the invasion, Conley died of his wounds at Basse-Normandie, France, on June 6, 1944.
According to a March 2008 Find A Grave posting, Pvt. Conley Odell Adkins’s remains were eventually returned to the States, where he was buried in the Adkins Family Cemetery in Oak Hill, Jackson County, Ohio. A subsequent posting on September 3, 2008, indicates that Pvt. Adkins was the recipient of the Purple Heart for his actions. (Source: Roy R. Adkins, “Conley Odell Adkins,” Find A Grave, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25137039 [accessed January 9, 2012].)
Article contributed by Patricia Richards McClure.
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