About 40 persons attended at the R.E. Peppy Blount Post No. 320 at the Disabled American Veterans meeting hall on north U.S. 271. (Both veterans’ groups meet in the same building.)
The local American Legion post, which received a provisional charter a year ago, marked receiving its permanent charter from its national organization.
Blount, who died last June at age 85, was a World War II veteran, Longview attorney, author, former Gregg County judge, and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in the 1940s while a student at the University of Texas in Austin. He played football for UT, and later officiated college football games.
Tyler television personality Barry Hansen, Blount’s longtime co-host for the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon against Muscular Dystrophy, was keynote speaker for Saturday’s ceremony. He told several humorous anecdotes about Blount, who he said reminded him of the saying, “Live like it’s heaven on earth. And R.E. Peppy Blount did just that.”
Blount, who legally changed his name to include his longtime nickname of “Peppy,” was a B-25 pilot who enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps after graduating in 1943 from Big Spring High School. Though a large percentage of B-25 pilots never returned from their missions, Hansen noted, Blount flew 31 missions after being assigned to the South Pacific.
In one instance, the tail of his airplane was partly blown off, Hansen noted.
Blount was flying at age 19 in what the late veteran called “World War Twice,” Hansen said. (According to an obituary published in an area newspaper last June, Blount was at 19 the youngest pilot of a B-25 bomber strafer in the South Pacific during World War II, and earned more than 15 military decorations.)
Illustrating Blount’s famed sense of humor, Hansen noted that when he first met his telethon co-host in 1968, a small child had had trouble pronouncing Hansen’s first name and called him “Barely Hansen.”
“You think Peppy Blount didn’t take that and run with it?” Hansen said. Upon their first meeting, he said, Blount declared, “Barely Hansen, can’t wait to meet you.”
Hansen also recalled that Blount and Jerry Lewis making a TV commercial for the telethon together were “a whole lot better than Dean Martin (Lewis’s longtime show business partner) and Jerry Lewis.”
Blount went on to co-host the telethon in East Texas for 33 years.
Attending Saturday’s ceremony were his widow, Eva Jean Blount; and two of their sons, Jeb Blount of Longview and Stephen Blount of San Antonio. In brief remarks, Jeb Blount thanked the Legion “for bestowing this honor on my father.”
Jeb Blount also noted that his paternal grandfather was a World War I veteran, and that Peppy Blount’s parents had been very active in Big Spring in the American Legion in the 1940s. Jeb Blount, local American Legion Commander Gerald Holsworth, and Hansen displayed pictures of Peppy Blount taken during his military days.
Holsworth said American Legion posts can be named only after someone who is deceased and that “our first choice was Peppy Blount,” although the post researched several candidates for the honor.
Vance Lowry, the post adjutant, read a proclamation from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, himself an American Legion member, congratulating the local post and calling Blount a “true Texas legend.”
After Hansen spoke, Harry Hicks of El Paso, department vice-commander for the American Legion in Texas, told the post members they had taken on “a monumental task” since they are supposed to recruit members.
The Gilmer High School Junior ROTC posted colors at the ceremony, while the legion chaplain, Rev. Huey Jones, said the invocation and benediction.
Lowry said before Saturday that the local Legion post had 33 members. It is open to all honorably discharged military veterans, whether they saw combat or not, and those interested in joining may contact Lowry at 843-2257.