Herman E. Melton
ATLANTA, Ga. — Herman Edgar Melton was born in Marella, Texas, in Collingsworth County, on July 25, 1920, the son of William Franklin and Myrtle Killingsworth Melton. He departed this life at age 93 on November 5, 2013, in Atlanta. He was the son of pioneer parents who broke virgin soil and built a prairie-style home on the farm where he was born. He attended Marella Rural School, Samnorwood High School, and graduated from Quail Consolidated High School in 1939. He studied at Texas Tech University in 1939 and Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas, in 1941–42.
The poverty and hardship that marked his youth shaped his approach to life. His father died when the boy was ten years old, leaving behind a widow with four children on a leased farm in the face of one of the most severe droughts of modern times. The dust storms that resulted made the region infamous as the Dust Bowl, leading to the near collapse of the U.S. farm economy, a major cause of the nation's Great Depression.
In 1942, after the United States entered World War II, the young man applied for and received an appointment as midshipman to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY. Upon his graduation in 1944, he was commissioned ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve, and ensign, U.S. Maritime Service. He married Helen Louise Dunn, a college sweetheart, of Garden City, Kansas, in a military wedding at the academy chapel on the day of his graduation. After his discharge from the service as lieutenant (j.g.) in 1946, he completed additional studies to receive a degree in marine engineering from the academy.
During his time at sea in World War II Mr. Melton saw much enemy action and participated in the treacherous Murmansk Run of 1942-43, when American convoy ships, known as Liberty ships, delivered Lend-Lease supplies to the Soviet Union while subject to constant attack by German U-boats. Later in the war, after surviving the sinking of his ship in the Philippine operation in 1944, he served as an engineer in salvaging a damaged Liberty ship and helping it return to the U.S. In a 1994 ceremony at the Russian embassy, he received a memorial medal from the Russian government for his service on the Murmansk Run.
After his wartime service, he entered the natural gas industry, and was employed for thirty-six years by Transcontinental Natural Gas Pipeline Corporation across six states.
As long-time residents of Chatham, Virginia, he and his beloved wife, Helen Louise Dunn, were active members of Watson Memorial United Methodist Church and in later years became parishioners of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. As a member of those and other churches during his lifetime he served in many capacities, including teaching. As a Royal Arch Mason and a Rotarian, he strived to live a Christian life and was always thankful for having been born a Christian.
During his years of residence in Virginia he received a master's degree in education from the University of Virginia. After retiring from his position with Transcontinental Natural Gas Pipeline, he taught natural gas technology at the Algerian Petroleum Institute in Arzew, Algeria.
Following his return to Chatham, he researched extensively the history of Southside Virginia and published five books on topics ranging from industrial and transportation history to criminal justice. Two other books were in manuscript at the time of his death.
He is survived by his wife, the former Helen Louise Dunn; his brother Donald Payne; his sons Dr. Edgar Melton, of Peaks Island, Maine; Will Melton of South Hadley, Massachusetts; and Dr. James Melton of Decatur, Georgia; six grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. He was predeceased by his parents, his sisters Marie Brewer and Nina Cole, his brother Hobart Melton, and his grandson James McCann Melton. He loved his family very much and was proud of all of them.
A memorial service was held in his honor at 1:00 on Saturday, June 7, 2014, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Chatham, with a reception in the church following. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Pittsylvania County Historical Society, P.O. Box 1148, Chatham, VA 24531-1148.
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