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Alumnus Focus: Joyner Inducted into French Legion of Honor

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  • Davidson College AROTC Color Guard

    The Davidson College AROTC Color Guard opened the induction ceremony of William S. Joyner '48 into the French Legion of Honor, with presentation of the colors in the college's Tyler-Tallman Hall.

  • JROTC Cadet Matthew R. Joyner Jr.

    Myers Park High School (Charlotte) JROTC Cadet Matthew R. Joyner Jr., left, served as emcee at the ceremony honoring his grandfather, William Joyner, right.

  • Alec Linville Joyner

    "Alec Linville Joyner (standing) and Oscar Lorenzo Joyner III brought their grandfather's World War II experience alive through a family narration of photographs and readings from his letters, citations and other writings.

  • William S. Joyner ’48

    Seen in the slide here at roughly the same age as his grandson Matthew, left, the elder Joyner, a Kernersville native, sported trademark wavy blond hair as a young man.

  • Soccer team 1940

    William Joyner's older brother Oscar '40 (front, second from left), killed in action in France in 1944, was on Davidson's first soccer team with his friend and classmate, the late President Emeritus Sam Spencer '40 (front, fifth from left).

  • Laura Meyer Wellman

    Honorary Consul of France Laura Meyer Wellman presents the Legion of Honor Medal to William Joyner while his grandson Matthew looks on.

  • Sergeant William Joyner

    Sergeant William Joyner in front of his foxhole on the Maginot Line, during the last months of World War II.

  • William Joyner’s older brother Oscar

    William Joyner's older brother Oscar '40 was killed in action in the hedgerows of France only 16 days after landing on Utah Beach at D-Day.

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William S. Joyner, M.D., '48, of Durham, was inducted into the French Legion of Honor in the rank of "Chevalier," or Knight during a September ceremony in Tyler-Tallman Hall at Davidson. The induction is based on Joyner's award of a Bronze Star for valor in combat in France in the fall of 1944. He also received an Oak Leaf Cluster for heroic achievement near Talheim, Germany, in the spring of 1945.

At the induction ceremony, three of Joyner's grandsons brought his World War II experience alive with photographs and readings from his letters, citations and even a poem he wrote while stationed at Fort Bragg in the summer of 1944, "For Freedom's Sake." At that time, Joyner's older brother Oscar, Davidson Class of '40, had been killed in action soon after landing in Normandy on D-Day. Joyner himself would be on the European continent in a matter of weeks after he wrote the poem.

Joyner was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievement in action during the period from Dec. 7, 1944, to Jan. 5, 1945, in Eastern France. He heroically exposed himself to "intense hostile fire" and "strong enemy action" east of Lemburg, France, in order to install and maintain wire lines of communication between the front and company headquarters, thus ensuring delivery of effective artillery support for his rifle company on the front.

It had been a long journey from his army induction to the U.S. Army, 100th Infantry Division, in September 1943, a scant year after coming from Kernersville, N.C., to Davidson College-a place he would return after the war. Joyner graduated as salutatorian in 1948 and went on to a long and illustrious career as a Chapel Hill, N.C., physician.

At the French Legion of Honor ceremony, Laura Meyer Wellman, the Charlotte region's Honorary Consul of France, presented Joyner the French Legion of Honor medal along with the remerciements of the people of France.

Helping celebrate the occasion, Richard Welke, originally of New York and now of Mooresville, N.C., was seated on Joyner's left in the audience-just as he was in one of the wartime pictures flashing on the screen in the auditorium. Welke and Joyner served together in the same infantry communications four-man squad throughout the war.

In his own remarks, Joyner reflected the gratitude inherent in the French Legion of Honor Medal back into the crowd of family and friends who had made the event possible.

"God bless you," he said, "and God bless France, and God bless the United States of America!"

Watch a video of the ceremony.