Veteran Ellis “Butch” Ferguson was one of many who went on a recent honor flight to Washington, D.C.
Born in 1943, Ferguson was one of six children and was raised on a farm in central Illinois near Peoria. He served in the armed forces from 1961-1964 in the field of communications.
“I was what they called a radio and carrier installer and operator,” Ferguson said.
“I handled communications for the Second Army.”
He received training in Augusta, Ga., and then was stationed at Fort Benning.
“We communicated overseas, and we communicated everywhere from Georgia,” Ferguson said.
There was one important message he remembered during his time at Fort Benning.
“I was running the radio when we got the word that John F. Kennedy was dead,” Ferguson said.
In addition to his communication duties, Ferguson said he was also on the riot patrol squad.
“We went to Alabama a lot because segregation was running rapid. It was terrible,” Ferguson said.
He was sent to protect former Alabama Gov. George Wallace during the historical event of when he blocked an entrance at the University of Alabama to deny access to two African-Americans in 1963.
“I was in the middle of a bunch of protests for segregation,” Ferguson said.
“The main duty I had was to protect George Wallace.”
After Ferguson’s time in the service, he studied mechanical engineering for one year at East Central College in 1976. A year later, he started working full time at Betz Printing in Sullivan as a foreman.
“The job was perfect for me,” Ferguson said. “I was shown respect. I felt like (the boss) really appreciated me being there. The (boss) never told me to do anything; he always asked. We put in a lot of overtime.”
After 24 years at the printing company, Ferguson retired in 2003. He has been married four times and has five children.
On June 10, 2017, he had the opportunity to go on a honor flight to Washington, D.C.
“I got to see all the war memorials. I got to go see the changing of the guards,” Ferguson said.
“I always wanted to find Audie Murphy’s gravestone (one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II), and I found that in Arlington.”
Ferguson currently resides in Sullivan.