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Burks, Davis served and died in World War I

Note: This article is first in a series to honor Madison residents who died in military service. These men are memorialized at the Wall of Heroes in Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Madison.

MADISON – In 1917 when the United States entered World War I, Madison was a small, quiet farming community. Madison natives who answered the call to service but paid the ultimate sacrifice are remembered on the Wall of Heroes in Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Madison at Front and Church streets.

Veterans Day, Nov. 11 of 2018 was exactly one century since the guns of World War I fell silent. The world had been witness to endless bloodshed since (the war’s) beginning in 1914 with millions sacrificed on the scattered battlefields,” Richard Lewis Blanton Jr. said. Blanton serves as Historian for Madison American Legion, Post 229.

The United States did not enter the conflict until 1917, late in the conflict with as many as 4,355,000 of her young men and women mobilized for the period ending Dec. 31, 1918,” Blanton said.

“Around 116,516 would pay the ultimate price from all causes,” Blanton said. Combat or missing in action accounted for 53,402 deaths. Disease or non-combat accidents caused 4,400 of the missing, still unaccounted after the war’s end.

Another 204,002 American service personnel were wounded, Blanton said.

On Memorial Day 2017, Madison American Legion re-dedicated the aging memorial in Veterans Park. Seven names on the memorial etched in granite and marble are for World War I.

Two of those men were James Burks and Will Davis.

Private James Burks was inducted into the U.S. Army at Chattanooga, Tenn. on Sept. 26, 1918 and sent north to Ohio. As a Private, he was assigned to Company I, 2nd Training Battalion, 158th Depot Brigade at Camp Sherman at Chillicothie, Ross County, Ohio. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Burks of Rural Free Delivery 2, Madison.

“Private Burks died of bronchia-pneumonia at Camp Sherman on Oct. 12, 1918,” Blanton said. “His body was returned to John Burks, Huntsville, Ala. and interred in the Northside Cemetery in Huntsville.”

Private First Class Will Davis was born in 1893. When he joined the U.S. Army, his residence was listed as the town of Madison in Madison County, Ala. Davis was inducted formally into military service in Autauga County, Ala. when he was 24 years old.

Davis was a Private assigned to the Casual Company, 421st Reserve Labor Battalion. He died at 25 years old in the Base Hospital at Camp Sheridan, Montgomery County, Ala. on Oct. 17, 1918. His body was returned to Lizzie Davis in Prattville, Alabama.

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