was born in the troublous days of 1875, near Batesburg, S.C.
The scene was less lurid during my earliest recollection in
the early 80’s, when I was having my first taste of school
were ungraded then, except in the larger towns and cities, but
somehow we met the scholastic requirements. At 18, I entered
the South Carolina Military College (The Citadel), graduating
four years later to take up the profession of teaching. This
terminated after two years, and a commercial career began, but
acquaintance with employees of the Weather Bureau attracted
me in that direction. I was inducted in 1904 and assigned to
Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. A. J. Mitchell was in Charge, and
Mr. Harold Noyes, recently retired at Boston, and Mr. Lindley
not long since retired at Vicksburg, were successively first
a year at Jacksonville, I was sent to Santiago, Cuba, for the
hurricane season, a service then considered undesirable and
rather hazardous. The dread of yellow fever was not entirely
gone from the public mind. Many of those assigned to the service
during, and just after, the Spanish-American War came down with
the Yellow Jack.
had fever a plenty, and so did my wife and child, but it was
not of the yellow variety, according to the doctor. Except for
the fever and long-following debility, lasting through the five
month’s assignment, there was nothing eventful. We did
not have a single hurricane, and only one spell of heavy rainfall.
It was a typical tropical season with its languor and enchantment,
so vividly depicted by Lafcadio Hearn. A return to the States
by way of Jamaica afforded another tropical setting but with
an English instead of a Spanish culture superimposed. The voyage
to Philadelphia was the roughest imaginable, considering the
rather light winds; stewards, sailors, passengers, all were
to New York, Mr. Emery and assistants were found busy with a
cold wave warning just received; but it was balmy enough at
the time. I boarded a train for Ithaca that night and was not
a little surprised (but why?) on arrival next morning to find
the ground covered with several inches of snow.
months at Ithaca and four at St. Louis passed quickly, and without
anything of note occurring, except those periodical, wholesale
turnovers in the personnel, that seemed all too frequent for
the greatest efficiency; but they afforded us variety, and tended
to counteract professional myopia.
to Montgomery was to be longer. Mr. Frank P. Chaffee, a martinet
of that day of hard boiled officials, and recently of the U.S.
Signal Corps was in charge. I found him not hard to please,
but very systematic and efficient in what he did himself and
required of others. During the absence of two years on furlough,
the conduct of the section Center was largely my responsibility.
Associated with me as assistants during this period were many
whom it is pleasant to remember.
in 1911 I was ordered to Birmingham in charge, where I have
remained ever since – for better or for worse. Assistants
I trained and worked with have held important posts in the service;
some have left it, one recently retired, and one has died. My
oldest daughter, Mrs. William Hall Smith, was the first, and
for a long time, the only, woman observer in the service.
daughters and two sons is the full complement of “weather
children.” One son is in the Navy, on duty in Washington.
The other, a chemist at Oak Ridge, Tenn., may have had some
part in the production of the atomic bomb; but we could never
find out just what. So much for filial respect when State secrets
original title of this article erroneously referred to Mr. Horton
as the OIC of Montgomery, Alabama, WBO, but he was, in fact,
the long-time OIC of Birmingham.
“The BREEZE”, Vol. 2, No. 8, September 10, 1945.