World War I Medal of Honor Recipient Robert Blackwell

A 1918 image of Blackwell from the N.C. Museum of History

A 1918 image of Blackwell from the N.C. Museum of History

On October 11, 1918, Person County native Robert Lester Blackwell was killed when he attempted to deliver a message asking for help for his unit near St. Souflet, France.

Blackwell’s unit had been cut off from the remainder of the force engaged in battle and was exposed to artillery and machine gun fire. The platoon commander ordered that a messenger be sent back for help; that man was promptly killed as was the second person sent behind him. Blackwell volunteered for the task and also lost his life. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation commended Blackwell for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.”

Blackwell’s father received the award in a ceremony in the State Capitol. Governor Thomas Bickett spoke, noting that no medal could compensate for Blackwell’s death. The family subsequently donated the medal to what is now the North Carolina Museum of History. Blackwell was one of two North Carolinians to receive the medal in World War I, the other being Samuel I. Parker. Blackwell also received the Cross of War from both the Portuguese and Italian governments.

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