GLENVILLE – It is with great sadness that Glenville State University observes the passing of Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. He was 98.
Williams was a major proponent of Glenville State’s West Virginia Veterans’ Legacy Project that took place in 2012. He was featured in several products of the Project, including the book “Heroes Among Us” and the documentary “A Tradition of Service.” He also traveled around West Virginia to help promote the Veterans’ Legacy Project.
“This is a truly sad day for West Virginia. Woody Williams was the epitome of what it means to be an American and we must all carry on his mission to honor, recognize, and serve our service members and their Gold Star families. Our condolences to his friends and family,” said Glenville State University President, Dr. Mark A. Manchin.
Williams, a U.S. Marine, served in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman in 1945. As recounted in the “Heroes Among Us” book, Williams said Truman whispered in his ear during the presentation of his medal, “I’d rather have this medal than be the President of the United States.”
Through his vision, a nonprofit organization was created – the Woody Williams Foundation – to establish permanent memorial monuments for Gold Star families in communities throughout the United States, to conduct outreach to those families, to provide Living Legacy scholarships to eligible Gold Star children, and to advocate for educational benefits for all Gold Star family members. Gold Star families are those immediate family members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.
In 2018, the Huntington VA Medical Center was renamed in his honor. The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, an Expeditionary Sea Base vessel, was officially commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 2020.