NO. 17463 • 5 Aug 1928 – 13 Oct 2001
Died in San Antonio, TX
Interred in Ft Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, TX
It is in San Antonio, TX, that many of Allen Burke Jennings’ major lifetime achievements occurred. He was born, graduated from high school, married, worked, retired, died, and is buried there.
LT Thomas Jennings '24 and his wife Genevieve welcomed their only child, Allen (Al), at Ft. Sam Houston. Being an active duty pre WWII military family, the Jenningses traveled extensively. On 7 Dec 1941 the Jennings family was on Oahu during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack left a lasting impression on the young Al. Later in life, he was occasionally asked to give speeches about his experiences on that fateful day. He enjoyed recalling that attack experience and the Hawaiian lifestyle of the late 1930s and the early 1940s.
By the mid 1940s, the Jennings family was back in San Antonio, where Al graduated from Central High School in 1945. A year of preparation to enter West Point was followed by his admission as a cadet in July 1946.
As a cadet, Al participated in many activities, including riding, fencing, debating and reporting. Nevertheless, he always found time to help a classmate with a problem. It may have been his experiences with the debate council that left him with a strong lifetime desire to win others over to his line of thinking. A quote about him in the Howitzer emphasizes this point: 'Al talked his way through four years at the Academy without the loss of a single battle or skirmish."
Upon graduation, Al followed in his father's footsteps and accepted his commission in the Field Artillery. After a tour in the 519th Field Artillery Battalion in Germany, he attended the battery officer’s course at Ft. Sill. There he remained as a teacher for over two years. It was while stationed there that he met the girl of his dreams, Mary Heacock, on a blind date. He married her in San Antonio on 20 Feb 1956. That was where Mary’s father, William Heacock '25, and mother, along with Al's parents, had retired. In the fall of 1956, Al was selected to join the faculty at West Point. En route to the Academy he earned master's degrees (public administration and history) from Harvard. At the Academy, he taught history, mainly Russian history. This teaching experience re invigorated his zest for history, especially that of tsarist Russia. In retirement he was almost certain to visit any museum in the United States that was displaying tsarist memorabilia or holding lectures on Russian history.
In the 1960s his assignments paralleled those of many of his classmates. He attended the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, had a tour in Viet Nam during the early buildup days, and commanded a battalion of the 83rd Field Artillery in Germany.
The highlight of his military duties in the 1970s was being the defense and Army attache in Brussels, Belgium. This afforded Al, Mary, and daughter Katherine the opportunity to study and travel in the Europe they loved so much. Following that extremely satisfying tour, it was back to San Antonio for a short, final active duty assignment as the deputy commander of VlI Readiness Region.
Retiring in San Antonio was like going back to Jennings’ roots; San Antonio was home. Al retired in 1978 and joined Mary in real estate. He became a licensed broker who spent six years teaching mathematics investments and financing to real estate agents and brokers. The collapse of the Texas real estate market aided his decision to retire from the real estate industry.
Full retirement didn’t mean doing nothing. He and Mary, until her death in December 1990, traveled extensively throughout Texas on numerous short trips. Of course, Al continued to play golf whenever possible, but his real passion became collecting distinctive unit insignia. Before WWII they were known as regimental insignia, regimental crests, or unit crests. Al had an outstanding collection of approximately 8,400 pieces, not counting the many duplicates he traded. He was lucky to have had a large enough house to keep his entire collection on display at one time. Family pictures and paintings were frequently adjusted to permit the expansion of an impressive collection that grew and improved exponentially. He traveled to various shows all over the country to find additional pieces to add to his collection, but really he traveled to visit with all the great friends, both new and old, who had the same passion for insignia.
Unfortunately, Al's collecting efforts came to an abrupt halt when he died unexpectedly on 13 Oct 2001. His terminal illness had lasted just over two weeks. He was buried with his beloved wife Mary, and nearby are the graves of both his and his wife's parents. Since Al and Mary began their lives in San Antonio and spent more time there than in any other place, it is fitting that their lives ended there. Although they both were 'Army brats' and spent a great portion of their lives in various places, they always considered San Antonio home.
He leaves his beloved daughter, Katherine Tix, and her husband Jeff of Sugar Land, TX.
Another graduate has joined the Long Gray Line. Well done, Al. Be thou at peace.
- His loving family and friends.