NO. 17384 . 21 Feb 1927 - 12 Mar 2004
Died in Annapolis, MD
Inurned in West Point Post Cemetery, West Point, NY
"From the hills and mountains of Tennessee, through Maryland and countless places across God's world, came one who brought more than we can begin to know. To these hills and mountains of New York he came, seeking knowledge and wisdom to be the officer and gentleman he felt called to be." Thus began the eulogy given by John Rutledge, Jr.'s pastor and friend as John's cremains were inurned, at John's request, at West Point, a place he loved.
Born to John and Tula Randolph Rutledge in Blanche, TN, John was the fifth child in a family of six and grew up helping with the farm work. He attended Lincoln County schools, graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. His friends remembered him as quiet, friendly, and one who was admired and loved by all. He was proud of his Tennessee heritage and the values of humility and hard work he had learned from his parents.
John's desire for a college education and to join his brothers in the Army led him to seek an appointment to West Point. Having achieved this goal, he enlisted in the Army in July 1945 and attended the USMA Preparatory School at Amherst College. In July 1946, he entered USMA.
While at the Academy, John was known as a "hive", but he was always willing to share his knowledge with his friends. He was a member of the Dialectic Society for four years. He earned the nickname "Black John" because, even in card games with his friends, he studied the tactics. He had the logical mind of an engineer, which led him to his career choice.
In February of his First Class year, John was sent to Walter Reed Army Hospital for lung surgery. He remained there two months before returning to West Point to complete the year. However, he had to return to Walter Reed after graduation for further surgery and rehabilitation. After review by the Medical Board, he was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers. While at Walter Reed, John met Lois Smith, and they were married in February 1951 in her hometown of Annapolis, MD.
John's first assignment was at Headquarters, Engineer Replacement Training Center at Ft. Belvoir, VA. He was aide de camp for the commanding general and then attended the Engineer Basic School. While waiting for orders to Korea, he served briefly as a platoon leader. In November 1951, he joined the 120th Engineer Combat Battalion (ECBn), 45th Division as a platoon leader and later served as company commander. After this tour, John transferred to HQ Army Forces, Far East (AFFE) in Japan, again serving as aide de camp, this time to the chief of engineers, AFFE. An assignment to the 43rd Engineer Combat Battalion in Tachikawa followed. John and Lois were living in Sagamihara when their first child, Deborah, was born.
In 1954, John was selected to attend the University of Illinois, where he earned a master's degree in civil engineering. His next assignment was to the Engineer District in Tulsa, OK. His duty station was Tinker Air Force Base, where their son, John Randolph, was born. John returned to Ft. Belvoir for the Advanced Course and then, in 1957, to the Army Construction Agency Germany.
In 1960, John began a three year assignment in the Office of the Chief of Engineers before attending CGSC in 1963. From Ft. Leavenworth he was transferred to Iran with the Military Advisory Group, serving as an advisor with the Iranian Army in Meshed and Shiraz.
The highlight of John's career came in 1965, when he returned to West Point as an instructor in the Department of Military Art and Engineering. Expecting to teach engineering, he was surprised to find he was on the Military Art side. This allowed him to increase his knowledge of one of his favorite subjects, military history, particularly the Civil War.
John left West Point to become commander of the 808th ECnBn at Ft. Wainwright, AK. After one year, he had to leave the extreme cold weather for health reasons, and transferred to HQ, Commander in Chief, Pacific in Honolulu. In 1970, John decided it was time to retire. When he returned stateside in 1971, he was employed by the Interstate Division of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works as a project engineer for the construction of Interstate 95. Later, he transferred to the Maryland Environmental Service.
In 1978, when John was 51 years old, he suffered a heart attack followed by a debilitating stroke. He was paralyzed on his right side and was left with aphasia, which affected his speech and parts of his memory. John's disability necessitated permanent retirement. Through the next 26 years, he suffered many other serious health problems but he always enjoyed life, even continuing his love for golf, which began as a cadet. Although he did not play often, he taught himself to play with one arm. He never gave up or complained, accepting whatever happened because his faith in God was absolute.
John would want to be remembered for his character rather than his accomplishments. He was patient and kind, a gentleman with a smile. His courage and determination were a witness to his faith that inspired all who knew him. John was a child of God and a committed disciple of Christ. He wanted the light of the Lord to shine through his life. John was happiest sharing life with his family, who knew his love was unconditional. This pride was also dearly evident to his many friends.
John was a soldier and an engineer, proud to be a member of the West Point Class of 1950 and of serving in the Corps of Engineers. He was a man of integrity and loyalty, confident, but humble. John is survived by his wife of 53 years, Lois; daughter Deborah Roesch and her husband Stephen; son Randy and his wife, Nancy , and three grandchildren, James and Sally Roesch and Becky Rutledge.
-- His wife Lou, their children and classmates