Uploaded 6 May 2012 — 39 favorites
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© Richard Knight
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

[Col. John Thornton Knight, Jr., 1894-1989. Kodakslide film, hand held light meter, manual adjustments]

I knew my grandfather forty (40) years. I consider him one of the most remarkable and influential men I have ever known.

He was born 118 years ago, on May 9, at Fort Reno, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). His father, Brig. Gen. John Thornton Knight, was a graduate of West Point (Class of 1884) and a career cavalry officer. His mother was the daughter of a career cavalry officer and no stranger to the desert southwest.

Granddad left home in 1911 and worked as a ranger in Yosemite National Park. While there, he met John Muir, the conservationist and naturalist. After two years, Granddad worked his way across the country to Washington, D.C., where he attended prep school. That winter, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and reported for duty there in June of 1914.

Granddad excelled at West Point, where he was elected class president, appointed “first captain” of the Corps of Cadets, and lettered in football and wrestling. During his first year, two of his football teammates were Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower.

Granddad’s West Point class graduated early, in August of 1917, because of the outbreak of World War I. Granddad was commissioned in the field artillery. He reported for duty, married Grandmother (his wife of 71 years), and shipped out to France.

On September 12, 1918, Granddad was commanding an artillery battery along the Western Front at the outbreak of the St. Mihiel Campaign. During the battle, he was seriously wounded, but refused to abandon his post. Eventually, he was evacuated to a field hospital. In due course, Granddad was cited for “extraordinary heroism” and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Nation’s second highest award (just below the Medal of Honor). Granddad was proud of that DSC. Whenever he wore a jacket, he often attached a miniature “DSC” lapel pin to his lapel (shown).

I took this picture of Granddad during a visit to Williamsburg, Virginia, in May of 1970. This was just days after my graduation from VMI (Virginia Military Institute), and Grandmother and Granddad had made the long journey from New Orleans to attend the ceremony. In fact, I had just been commissioned a lieutenant in the army, and Dad and Granddad administered the oath and pinned on the gold bars.

Granddad was an eternal optimist, with the sunniest disposition. And this photo captures his personality, just as I remember him. He was 76 here.

Granddad was a man of the most sterling qualities – a force for good. What a blessing to me and his extended family. He is not forgotten!

36 responses

  • Carlo Pagan

    Carlo Pagan gave props (6 May 2012):

    Beautiful shot, great tribute!!!!

  • diana a

    diana a   gave props (6 May 2012):


  • daniele castellucchio

    daniele castellucchio gave props (6 May 2012):

    excellent tribute!

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (6 May 2012):

    Your grandfather was young looking man for his age of 76 at the time this picture was shot ...a wonderful portrait and tribute of his life.

  • P. Michael Bodigor

    P. Michael Bodigor gave props (6 May 2012):

    One super memorial! Love the historical notes, well done.

  • Betty Maxey

    Betty Maxey   gave props (6 May 2012):

    What a nice capture of him! Excellant narrative too!!!

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (6 May 2012):

    A wonderful portrait of your distinguished Grandad! Your family has such an incredibly interesting history; how proud you must be of him and the service that he gave to this country. And what a thrill to find that he had played football with two such noteworthy men! I certainly enjoyed reading your fine narrative and learning about yet another extraordinary family member!

  • Donald Garrett

    Donald Garrett gave props (6 May 2012):

    I can't add anything meaningful to the others' statements! Maybe a general WOW!

  • Ann Reece

    Ann Reece   gave props (6 May 2012):

    This is an excellent tribute to your grandfather. I enjoyed reading some of your family history. No wonder that you are our fearless leader of the PG meetmuos : ). Seriously, you have a family to be very proud of.

  • Leslie Hunziker

    Leslie Hunziker   gave props (6 May 2012):

    What a wonderful, dedicated man he must have been. You must be so very proud of him Richard. This kind of man is cut from a different cloth than many we see in this day and age. We need more like him. And....well, we do have one. You. They say the apple doesn't fall far from tree, and I see the same integrity in you. I know you were proud of him, and i'm sure he was just as proud of you, dear Richard. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  • Geoff Plant

    Geoff Plant gave props (7 May 2012):

    Beautiful portrait and a very meaningful tribute to your grandfather. Like me I used to listen to the tales my grandfather told. Like your father they hold a lot of knowledge and wisdom that you can only appreciate when you get olderr

  • Patty Gross

    Patty Gross (Deleted) gave props (7 May 2012):

    Fabulous photo and narrative regarding your beloved Granddad, Richard!! I loved the way your wrote about him and his achievements, which were many, and prove what patriotic and fearless stock you come from!!! I recall a "desk" at your home when I was there last year. It was used in the field by one of your grandfathers.....was it this grandfather to whom it belonged? You also bear a strong resemblance to this Granddad!! Thank you so much for sharing another great man from your family who helped make our country the wonderful home it is to this day.....free, democratic, and very patriotic!!!!

  • Lanis Rossi

    Lanis Rossi gave props (7 May 2012):

    Wonderful story Dick!

  • elfriede fulda

    elfriede fulda (Deleted) gave props (7 May 2012):

    A wonderful tribute to your grandfather, you can certainly be proud of him !

  • Rajeev Jadhav

    Rajeev Jadhav gave props (7 May 2012):

    Great tribute !!!!!!!!

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (7 May 2012):

    this is a great tribute to your grandfather. I can't deny that your family got remarkably great genes, in looks and personality! I have not seen anyone looks that good in a Ray ban sun glasses! I have to look for his grave site at Presidion, one of these days. :-)

  • Iztok Urh

    Iztok Urh gave props (7 May 2012):


  • Paperini Renato

    Paperini Renato said (7 May 2012):

    A really great and deserved tribute, admirable your love for the military tradition that accompanies your family. The photo is beautiful and does not show its age, seems taken yesterday and shows us that youth is the age of the sunset of an extraordinary man you are rightly proud of. My Regards Dick

  • Jyri Vissak

    Jyri Vissak gave props (7 May 2012):

    Beautiful portrait here!

  • Ioana Caravan

    Ioana Caravan   gave props (7 May 2012):

    Wonderful tribute!

  • Shirley Valencia

    Shirley Valencia   gave props (7 May 2012):

    fantastic bio....you have such honorable men in your family....

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (8 May 2012):

    Wonderful tribute.

  • Thad Zajdowicz

    Thad Zajdowicz gave props (8 May 2012):

    Richard, a marvelous portrait and a stirring biography. Your grandfather epitomizes the best of the best.

  • Tom Piorkowski

    Tom Piorkowski (Deleted) gave props (8 May 2012):

    Nice tribute, well done.

  • Brad Paro

    Brad Paro gave props (8 May 2012):

    What a good story to go along with the photo...Thanks for sharing Richard!

  • eithne mythen

    eithne mythen gave props (9 May 2012):

    What an interesting and adventurous life he led, someone I would like to have met and sat for a chat...

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham gave props (10 May 2012):

    What a wonderful portrait of this great man. He had many adventures in life and looks and acts alot like his grandson. A wonderful tribute.

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (10 May 2012):

    Truly love this heartfelt tribute, dear Richard. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Jen Mars

    Jen Mars gave props (12 May 2012):

    wow, how nice! It's really great that you know your family history

  • Suzanne McGeady

    Suzanne McGeady said (13 May 2012):

    Think you must take after him Richard.....sunny disposition, eternal optimist....mmm..sounds like someone we all know. What a remarkable, and distinguished man....someone to look up to. Wonderful photo.

  • Judy and Wayne Wanamaker

    Judy and Wayne Wanamaker gave props (14 May 2012):

    What an amazing life he had! No wonder you are so proud of him. I am sure he was/is equally proud of you. This is such a wonderful and joyful portrait; a real family treasure.

  • Steven Schutz

    Steven Schutz gave props (19 May 2012):

    Stellar image and history...this is a real man..

  • dawn duffield

    dawn duffield gave props (23 May 2012):

    Taken 2 months before my birth... Thank you for sharing, Dick!

  • P L.

    P L. (Deleted) said (25 May 2012):

    Respectful and wonderful capture. Thank you for sharing:)

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (22 Jun 2012):

    nice portrait...

  • Mary Ali

    Mary Ali said (3 Jul 2012):

    What a wonderful story and a great photo. A very nice tribute to your Grandad and so nice that you had so many years with him. Thanks for sharing.

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