Tennessee Legislature Calls For President To Provide Last World War II Medal Of Honor Recipient National State Funeral

  • Friday, July 19, 2019

Both chambers of the Tennessee State Legislature passed a joint resolution calling on the Trump Administration to provide a state funeral in Washington. D.C., for the last remaining World War II Medal of Honor recipient when he passes away.  

In total, 473 Americans received the nation’s highest military honor during the Second World War. Today, only three remain, including Charles Coolidge from Chattanooga. 

This nationwide, bi-partisan initiative was led by the nonprofit State Funeral for World War II Veterans Chairman Lee William (Bill) McNutt and its co-state chairs for Tennessee, Beth and Charlie Sell of Nashville. The resolution was spearheaded through the legislature by Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson, from Hixson, representing District 11. 

"The approximate 400,000 remaining veterans of the Second World War will benefit from a State Funeral in Washington DC for the final MOH recipient from World War II,” said Mr. McNutt.  “This will be a final salute to the greatest generation.” 

Mr. Sell, a successful Nashville businessman, said, “This bill is important to Tennessee. Our state has strong times to the Medal of Honor, given that the first recipients were brave soldiers who fought in the Chattanooga area.” 

"We applaud the Tennessee legislature for passing a resolution in strong support of this unique and original initiative,” said Keith Hardison, CEO of the Chattanooga-based National Medal of Honor Heritage Center. "Our center is dedicated to one of the three remaining MOH recipients from WW II, Charles Coolidge. We strongly endorse the mission and efforts of Mr. McNutt and the State Funeral for World War II Veterans to call for a State Funeral in Washington for the final World War II Medal of Honor holder.”

The State Funeral for World War II Veterans’ nationwide campaign calls for the President of the United States to designate a state funeral for the last Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, as a final salute to the 16 million men and women of the greatest generation who served in the armed forces from 1941 to 1945. The White House holds sole authority to do so and does not require approval from the U.S. Congress to enact. A State Funeral is a seven to 10-day national event and consists of ceremonies within the state where the honoree was in residence.

Ceremonies are within Washington, D.C., and in the state (or at Arlington National Cemetery) where the authorized individual has chosen to be interred.  All funeral arrangements are made by the U.S. Military District of Washington, D.C., and involve Armed Forces honor guards, elite military bands, and/or guns support (source White House.gov website). The last two State Funerals were Ronald Reagan in 2004 and George Bush in 2018. The last non-Presidential State Funeral was General Douglas MacArthur in 1964.

This effort is the brainchild of Mr. McNutt’s 10-year-old daughter, Rabel, a public school student, in honor of her godfather, Walter Ehlers, the oldest holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor when he died in 2014. He received the honor for his efforts at The Battle for Normandy in June 1944.

The McNutt family has strong ties to Nashville.  Rabel's great-grandfather, Joe Pritchett, built and operated the Sam Davis Hotel.  Her grandfather, L. William McNutt, Jr., played center and linebacker on the last undefeated Vanderbilt football team in 1943.   Rabel’s father and State Funeral for World War II Veterans co-founder, Bill McNutt, is a native Nashvillian and a graduate of Vanderbilt University.

Three World War II Medal of Honor recipients remain with us: Hershel “Woody” Williams of West Virginia, Francis (Frank) Currey of New York and Charles Coolidge of Tennessee. All three are more than 90 years of age.

Tennessee is one of four states to pass such a resolution.

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