Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A friend emailed me of the passing of Pam Murphy. Not remarkable if you consider she was 90.
What is remarkable is who she was and how so few know of her or remember her today. A Los Angeles Times columnist did, reminding us of who she was and to whom she was married.
Pam Murphy was the widow of Audie Murphy, a so-so actor who died tragically in a plane crash in 1971. He was just 45.
Less known and certainly forgotten in today's Hollywood, Murphy was the most decorated soldier in World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, the French Legion of Honor, among numerous other awards for heroism.
I met Audie Murphy once. It was in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the first television station to go the air there. He was promoting his latest western flick, The Cimarron Kid.
What struck me even then was how short he was, about 5-5. I expected all cowboys to be tall. I was also struck by how softly he talked with a distinct Texas twang.
My two cousins and I each got to chat briefly with the movie star and get his autograph. And we later did see his movie, a movie not nearly as memorable as the man himself.
Because of his premature death, Murphy left behind large debts, forcing his widow and two young sons out of their spacious Hollywood home into a small apartment. She went to work to support her family and the LATimes columnist recounts she spent most of her years cheering up patients during their visits to a Veterans Administration hospital in California.
Pam Murphy made many trips to Arlington National Cemetery where her late husband is buried, trips unnoticed except by those close to her.
Pam Murphy's death has rekindled memories of her husband, a boy who was the sixth of twelve children born to sharecroppers. In the midst of the Great Depression the father deserted the family and Audie Murphy worked for a few cents a day as a farm hand to help support the family. He never completed elementary school.
From the dusty plains of Texas emerged a uniquely American success story, a youngster whose childhood was lost to poverty; who when turned down by the Marines because he was too short kept banging on recruiters doors until he was finally accepted by the Army; who risked his life on numerous occasions to protect his fellow soldiers; who became this country's most honored soldier.
If I mentioned the name Audie Murphy to my grandchildren, I'm sure I would get back a blank stare. Who they would ask? I doubt if his epic heroism is mentioned in any of the politically correct history books from which they studied.
Meeting this American hero was an honor I did not come to appreciate until long after my own childhood years. It remains among my most cherished memories.

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