WWII hero, Medal of Honor recipient Col. Charles Murray dies

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Special to South Carolina Military News

Medal of Honor recipient Col. Charles P. Murray Jr. died Friday, Aug. 12, in Columbia. Col. He was 89.

Col. Murray received his Medal of Honor on July 5, 1945, in Salzburg, Austria. The award was presented by Lt. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, commanding general of U.S. II Corps.

Col. Murray was cited for displaying “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” in action against the enemy by commanding Company C, 30th Infantry, displaying supreme courage and heroic initiative near Kayserberg, France, on Dec. 16, 1944.

While leading a reinforced platoon into enemy territory, Murray, who was then a first lieutenant, fired from an exposed position, disorganizing the enemy ranks and forcing their withdrawal. He then moved with his patrol to secure possession of a bridge and construction of a roadblock, capturing enemy troops while sustaining injuries.

During the eight-month period from October 1944 to May 1945, Murray also received the Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with first Oak Leaf Cluster and French Croix de Guerre with Silver Gilt Star for Valor.

Col. Murray was a long-time fixture in local military circles, a frequent participant in Veterans Day and patriotic holiday events, and recipient of numerous honors.

One award was presented in December 2009 when American Legion Post 6, where he had been a member for three decades, renamed its banquet room after Col. Murray.

Getting Col. Murray to agree to the accolade took some selling.

When first asked if he would accept, Col. Murray suggested there were other members of the Legion more worthy.

Post commander Doyle Tipton, though, insisted.

“He’s involved in everything that has to do with the military around Columbia,” Tipton said of Col. Murray. “He’s a very honorable man who loves the military and does what he can … for our veterans.”

Col. Murray, wearing the star-shaped Medal of Honor with a blue ribbon around his neck, smiled as well-wishers reached to shake his hand and offer congratulations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in this room,” said Murray, who moved to Columbia in 1970 when he was assigned to Fort Jackson. “Wedding receptions have been held here and banquets, too. This is just a great, great honor.”

The hall, though, is not the first building to bear Murray’s name. In Wilmington, N.C., where he was raised, there’s a middle school named after him.

On that night in December, Col. Kevin Shwedo, who was then Fort Jackson’s deputy commander, presented Murray with the Order of St. Maurice, recognizing his lengthy support of the Army infantry.

“Since his retirement he has been probably one of the most active and visible members of the community,” said Shwedo, who later retired from the Army and now serves and director of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Col. Murray attended military functions locally as well as around the state, Shwedo said. Murray also made frequent trips to Fort Stewart, Ga., to visit his old unit, the 3rd Infantry Division, when it deploys, Shwedo added.

“He’s a man still serving his country,” Shwedo said at the time of the presentation.

Survivors include Col. Murray’s wife Anne, son Brian of Fort Payne, Ala., and daughter Cynthia Anne Murray of Roswell, Ga. Another son, Charles P. Murray III died in 2004.

Friends may visit with the family from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Dunbar Funeral Home. A memorial service will be conducted 3 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church. Col. Murray will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

There are 84 Medal of Honor recipients alive today, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, headquartered in Mount Pleasant.…