Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor Memorial occupies a highly visible plot of ground—directly across the street from Memorial Stadium. The Memorial is in the form of a barrow ringed with stones upon which are engraved the names of four hundred ninety-three alumni who died on active military service. While the Memorial stands as a steady, silent tribute to these heroes, its companion, a comprehensive website, has recently undergone a major renovation.
A website that would more fully tell the story of the heroes inscribed on the Scroll of Honor Memorial was originally the idea of Dawson Luke, Class of 1956. “I wondered: what did these people look like? What’s their story?” recalls Luke, a member of the Clemson Corps, a constituent group of the Clemson Alumni Association. “I asked the Scroll of Honor Dedication committee if we could somehow tell their stories.” The committee gave Luke the green light and he embarked on what he describes as “a labor of love.” Working with a group of committed volunteers, Luke led an effort to build a website for the Scroll of Honor, one that includes a page for each hero.
“We had a list of names,” Luke remembers, “but that’s about all we had. If they had graduated, we could usually find their pictures in Taps, the college yearbook. If not, we had to find them elsewhere.” That meant a lot of research time and effort during a period in which Luke recalls, “resources were tight.” Working on a university project is not without benefits however. “John Seketa,” who at the time was the director of promotions for the Athletic Department, “helped find us some fantastic student helpers.” Other volunteers, like Dave Lyle, Class of 1968, came from the Clemson Corps board and from ROTC classes.
“I was involved in the vetting of the names,” Lyle recalls. “There were four hundred fifty or so to start with. I searched through old copies of Taps and other papers and would occasionally get help from the Registrar’s office. I also visited a lot of local libraries, from Oconee County to Sumter looking through compilations of that county’s war dead. We would find a lot of misspellings, names that had been reversed and other errors. The people who originally compiled the Roll of Honor in 1946 relied on hand-written lists and word of mouth. It’s much easier now with the use of the internet. We can double check spelling and other errors.”
In addition to visiting local libraries across the state, Lyle also took his camera along on trips with his wife Judy. “We’d build some extra time into our travels and stop at cemeteries to take pictures of headstones which we’d include on the website. Grave markers provided a lot of information,” Lyle points out, including correct spellings, dates of birth, and often the military unit to which the hero was assigned at the time of his death.
“I wanted to find out how they died,” Luke says. “Dave’s passion was finding where they were buried and their obituaries. One piece of information in a newspaper article might lead us to another. More and more stuff has shown up on the internet over the past ten years.”
“When you’re working with nearly five hundred names that span more than a century, it’s easy to make mistakes,” Lyle says—and that meant frequent updates to the website. Both Luke and Lyle admit to getting frustrated with the intricacies of website maintenance. With additional emphasis on website security and protecting content from unauthorized manipulation, Luke, Lyle and their Clemson Corps colleagues worked with University faculty, staff and students in the ROTC departments to maintain the old website. Constant turnover and the continuing discoveries of more information about the Scroll’s heroes made keeping the website current a daunting task.
Plus adds Luke, “The old site didn’t show up very well on iPads.” In addition, what had started out as a website dedicated to the Scroll of Honor had evolved into one with a broader focus, covering everything from Clemson’s military heritage to ROTC news.
With these factors in mind, the Clemson Corps, with the cooperation of the Clemson Alumni Association, decided to build and host a new website solely focused on the Scroll of Honor. The new site, https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu, is now live and features a revised format and enhanced search capabilities. It also contains an ever-expanding body of information about the heroes listed on the Scroll of Honor and offers an interactive and engaging opportunity for site visitors to learn more about the lives and sacrifices of these fallen heroes.
The relative ease of updating the new site is important because, Lyle says, “I don’t think we’ll ever finish. We’ll keep adding new information as it’s discovered.”
Highlighting the sacrifices of the Scroll of Honor heroes motivates Luke, Lyle and their colleagues to continue to expand the information available on the website. “The name on the stone doesn’t tell who the person was, what they looked like, what they did and how they died,” Luke explains.
Lyle agrees. “It’s our job to tell the stories of these men. Every year on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day we gather and we promise we will never forget these heroes,” he says. “But before you can forget someone you have to know who they were.”
–Kelly Durham, firstname.lastname@example.org