Distinguished WWI Veteran, Namesake of Wendell’s American Legion Post
Born: May 20, 1896, USA
Died: Nov. 11, 1918, France
Cedric Harris was one of 5 children of Edward W. Harris and Meta Earl Brummitt. He was mortally wounded in action on Nov. 11, the day the armistice was signed between Germany and the Allies. He was helping to care for his wounded men and received a fatal shot while administering aid.
My introduction to Lt. Harris was the window in the Wendell Methodist Church. The Harris window is hidden behind the organ in the north side on the sanctuary. When we joined the church, I noticed that there were two Cedric Edward Harrises but at the time I thought they were father and son. One day alone in the church, I wandered about reading windows. That is when I realized that the elder Harris could not be the father of the younger Harris as he died two years before the young Harris was born.
I learned that Harris was born in 1896 in Henderson NC. The 1900 census lists him at age four, living in Reidsville, Rockingham, North Carolina with his parents, Edward W and Meta E Harris. His father is listed as a tobacco warehouse man. He has two siblings, Norwood (b:1898) and Talton (b:1895).
By 1910 the family had moved from Reidsville to Dunn Ward 4, Harnett, North Carolina. His father is working as a merchant in the tobacco market. He has now two additional siblings: Joseph Claxton (b: 1912) and Frank (b: 1915). The Harris family moved to Wendell sometime after the 1910 census.
Harris was a fairly good student at Trinity College in Durham where he graduated in 1917. From the clubs listed in the yearbook with his senior picture, I suspect that he probably had a degree in science, maybe chemistry. In the Trinity College year books for 1916 and 1917 he lists his hometown as Wendell. When he registered for the draft, his occupation was “student”, and employed by the U.S. Government at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. I assume this was the officer’s candidate school where he received his commission.
About a year later he was a lieutenant in Grimaucourt, France with a machine gun company. On one patrol they came under fire from three machine guns. Lt. Harris took one of his company’s guns forward, and ordered his men back to safety. He was mortally wounded, and died on Nov. 11, 1918, the day the armistice was signed between Germany and the allies. For his actions he received the Distinguished Service Cross (See the below award citation and the letter from Lt Banks Arendell.) The Veterans of Wendell honored Lt. Harris, by naming the local American Legion Post 148, the Cedric Harris American Legion Post (For further information see the letter from Robert Brewer below.)
As reported in the Durham Morning Herald on Wednesday June 4, 1919, Lt. Harris and the other alumni of Trinity College who died in World War I were honored in a special program a Craven Memorial Hall at Trinity College. The service was presided over by Mayor M.E. Newsom. Many dignitaries spoke eulogizing the deceased military alumni.
The family continued to live in Wendell. In 1920, his father Edward is working as a tobacconist in the warehouse. His 21-year-old brother, Norwood (b: Feb. 9, 1898) has married Mabel Richardson, and the couple may be boarders in Bloomfield, Nelson, Kentucky. His occupation is listed as a traveler for a tobacco company.
From the 1925 Raleigh City Directory the family is listed as living in Wendell. Edward and a W.R. Hunt are listed as grocers at the Raleigh Cash Store at 311 S. Blount Street in Raleigh.
In 1930 his father and mother are still living in Wendell but his father now is working as a buyer in a tobacco warehouse. His brother Norwood and his wife Mabel are back in Wendell with two children: Barbara (b: 1923) and Norwood (b: 1924). He is a book keeper for a tobacco warehouse.
By 1940, Edward’s wife Meta is still living in Wendell on Academy Street. Norwood and Mabel have moved to Durham. Norwood has accepted a job as a plant manager in a bottling plant. Barbara, Norwood II, and Larry Harris (b:1938) are living with them. Larry is listed as Norwood and Mabel’s son.
I suspect that the Harris family moved with the tobacco industry. They probably came to Wendell as the town grew and tobacco became a big part of the town. Based on the fact they contributed to the Harris Memorial window in the sanctuary, they were members of the Wendell Methodist Church and probably were involved in the construction of the new church on north Main Street. They must have been prominent in Wendell as the community still has a Harris Street which is just north of the Wendell Methodist Parsonage.
Lt. Harris’s father Edward died in 1935. His wife Meta lived until 1949. His parents, Edward and Meta Harris, are buried in the Elmwood Cemetery, Henderson, Vance County. The Elmwood Cemetery may be a family cemetery as there are many Harrises buried there.
The other Cedric Edward Harris in the Wendell church window is the son of Lt. Harris’s brother Norwood and Mabel Harris. The baby was born Oct. 7, 1920 and died Jul. 1, 1922. His father Norwood died in 1969, and his mother Mabel died in 1992. Baby Cedric and his parents, Norwood and Mabel, are buried in the Greenmount Cemetery in Wendell.
Edward Cedric Harris
Date of birth: 1899
Date of death: 11 November 1918
Place of Birth: Henderson, NC
Home of record: Wendell NC
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 32 (1919)
Action Date: 11 November 1918
Service: Army: Rank: Second Lieutenant
Company: Machine Gun Company
Regiment: 321st Infantry Regiment
Division: 81st Division, American Expeditionary Forces
Awards and Citations:
Distinguished Service Cross – Awarded for actions during World War I
President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Second Lieutenant (Infantry) Edward Cedric Harris, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Machine Gun Company, 321st Infantry Regiment, 81st Division, A.E.F., near Grimaucourt, France, 11 November 1918. Under the fire of three machine guns, firing upon him from different directions, Lieutenant Harris took his gun through the enemy wire and mounted it. He would not permit his men to remain in such a dangerous position, and, after being wounded severely, ordered his men to leave him.
For the same action he received the following awards from the French Government
Received Croix de Guerre with Palm and D. S. Cross
Distinguished Service Cross Recipients, World War I, 1917-1918