McKINNEY, Texas (AP) — Black veterans of four wars received long overdue recognition on Monday when a Memorial Day ceremony was conducted in their refurbished resting place.
An American Legion honor guard was present, and a 21-gun salute and the sound of Taps rang out in Ross Cemetery, a graveyard that was all but forgotten over the years.
For decades, black veterans who fought in both world wars, Korea and Vietnam were buried in a cemetery adjacent to the larger Pecan Grove cemetery in Collin County, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Among those laid to rest at the cemetery were John Jones, a World War I veteran who returned home safely from combat in France. In 1922, he was slain at home during a dispute with white men over a hog he was barbecuing. His killers were never prosecuted, according to research by Ken Byler, a retired businessman who writes for the Allen American.
While investigating the story of Jones, who had been married to a friend of his mother's, Byler went to Ross Cemetery and found it in a deteriorated condition.
"It had been vandalized and used as a dump for years," Byler said. "There are more than 50 black veterans buried there who never had a flag on their graves or any kind of memorial."
Members of a nearby Baptist church were also buried at the site, which was Collin County's only black cemetery during the segregated Jim Crow era. Trash covered the tombstones there and many graves went unmarked over the years — but volunteers have cleaned it up in recent weeks.
Members of the Heritage Guild, which has adopted the church and feels ties to the cemetery, hope to have the old burial ground designated as a historic site. The designation would qualify it for grants to help keep it maintained.
McKinney is about 30 miles north of Dallas.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.