Williams Baptist College has close ties to Army history

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The present Williams Baptist College location has close ties to World War 2. The college sits on part of an old training base.

As you look past the campus you can see the tails of salvage aircraft sitting on the ramps and runways where thousands of students learned to fly.

History Professor Daniel Spillman was surprised to learn that his new place of employment was situated on a former Army training field.

"I taught a class on the History of Arkansas this semester and I thought it might be a creative way to study, to learn about the history of this airbase."

His nine students spent the semester researching the base and the surrounding area gathering a lot of data from the Wings of Honor Museum at the airport.

Spillman, "I had each student spend some time at the museum and then choose a project that interested them."

Primarily there are 3 World War 2 buildings that survive at the airport. A two bay hangar, the Commandants House and the base chapel. The latter two are located on the campus although the chapel was moved to it's present locations and bricked over.

Looking at a map, the campus itself is located in a former officer housing area. There is old base housing still in use but those units were built when the airport housed a radar site in the late 50's early 60's.

Using one student project that highlighted a former POW camp located at the base, he showed me the location of the campus in relation to the training field.

One of the students, Senior Dustin Crane completed 2 projects. In his research on POW camps in Arkansas he discovered photos, letters and telegrams about 2 Walnut Ridge men who served in the Army. All of that information has been donated by the families to the museum.

Crane says that in doing their research, he and his classmates discovered more than just History. They discovered the spirit of the men and women who served.

"It was about honor and adventure. That's what I learned about it. They wanted to serve their country for their country and their courage was incredible."

All of the project displays will be kept at the museum as part of the displays.

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