During World War II, a flag hung in the window at the home of Herman and Berdie Carr Sr. in Danville. What made the flag unique were its five service stars — signifying the four sons and one daughter who were in the armed forces.
Now, the daughter of one of those service people is trying to get historical recognition for her relatives, 70 years later.
“I’m impressed with how the family persevered and stayed together and made a contribution (to the country and the community),” Debra Carr Davis-Moody, daughter of James Carr, said during a recent visit to her hometown.
What’s also unique, she said, is the Carr family was the only African-American family from Danville — and possibly the state and country — to have five siblings inducted during WWII within a significantly short time period of each other.
Four of the siblings joined the Army within a few weeks of each other; the youngest joined a year later.
Carr lives in Minnesota, but is in the process of moving to the Chicago area. She’s gathering information about her relatives’ service so she can get them designated as a historic family through President Barack Obama’s office.
The siblings were:
- William was the first to go into the service on Feb. 3, 1943, and he went to Europe in a troop train service. Upon his discharge, he went to Indiana State University, and became a self-employed painter and wall decorator.
He died May 22, 1979, and is buried at the Danville National Cemetery.
- James joined the service a week after his brother, on Feb. 10. He was sent to Europe with a field artillery unit, and was seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.
By 1950, he had formed Carr Electrical Service, and was the only African-American electrical contractor for 13 of his 20-year career in Danville. He was a pioneer in development of the Community Action Program in the 1960s.
He died Nov. 9, 1974, and is buried at the Danville National Cemetery.
- Gloria Carr entered the Women’s Army Corps on Feb. 22; she is believed to be the only African-American from Danville to serve in that branch during the war. She eventually followed her two brothers to Europe.
In 1950, she married Jesse Petway and they lived in New Jersey, where she worked in civil service. She died in 1989.
n Herman Kenneth joined the Army on March 16, 1943, and received medical training before going to Europe. After the service, he returned to Danville and worked for Paul S. Millikin for several years before moving to Detroit. He died there on Feb. 16, 1963.
- Finally, Lawrence entered the Army on June 12, 1944, and went to Europe with an I.M. Detachment. He gave his age as 16 when he joined, but he was actually 15, his niece said. He was discharged on Oct. 26, 1948, as a sergeant. In 1950, he went to Philadelphia, where he became an administrative assistant with the Department of the Army in 1952, retiring in 1981. He died in 2009.
There was a sixth sibling who didn’t join, Davis-Moody said.
She also has a relative, James Alex Carr, who was the first African-American to serve in the Revolutionary War.
In 2007, Davis-Moody began the process of trying to get the Carr family home at 513 W. English St. designated as an historic site.
However, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency rejected her request because the house has aluminum siding, and not the original from 1941-43.
From 2008 to 2010, Davis-Moody then turned her attention to getting certificates for her relatives, and was successful. She received those in March — certificates from the president’s office in recognition of their devoted service to the United States. She received certificates for everyone except Gloria, and is working on finding her service records.
Davis-Moody now wants to take the recognition a step further, and is trying to track down specific details about each relative’s service.
She has gone through the Department of Military Records and the Department of Veterans Affairs in Danville, Springfield and Chicago.
To obtain the historical significance designation, she needs more details about their services, such as William fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and her father, James, serving with Gen. William Westmoreland.
“Getting this information is the key right now,” she said.
As a psychologist and emergency response worker, Davis-Moody intends to visit Fort Sill when she goes to Oklahoma this month to help in the aftermath of the tornadoes.
She’ll also make inquiries when she attends a family reunion in Kalamazoo, Mich. In addition, Davis-Moody would like to hear from people who might have some information to share.
Her uncles were good friends with entertainer and Danville native Bobby Short, and Davis-Moody contacted him for help. However, he died before he had a chance to do anything, she said.
“It will all work out — that’s my prayer,” she said. “It’s work I’m loving to do.”
Also, she said, some of her relatives’ friends will feel proud knowing the family has received national recognition.
The recognition and designation as an historic family is long past due, she said.