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mr edgar c. horton, oic wbo, birningham, alabama

I 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 days.

Schools 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 assistants.

After 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.

I 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 sick.

Proceeding 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.

Three 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.

Assignment 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.

Early 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.

Three 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 are involved.

*The 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.

In: “The BREEZE”, Vol. 2, No. 8, September 10, 1945. Pp. 12-13.

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