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Monument for infantryman killed in World War I vanishes from Decatur Square


Monument for infantryman killed in World War I vanishes from Decatur Square

The historic Decatur GA courthouse
The historic Decatur GA courthouse

The historic Decatur GA courthouse

For years, the Decatur Square contained a small monument to Harold Byrd, a casualty of World War I and the namesake of the American Legion Post in Avondale Estates.

Then one day, Chris Billingsley noticed it was missing.

Billingsley is a retired Decatur High teacher who keeps track of such things. He’ll be leading the Memorial Day services today at the Decatur Cemetery at 5 pm. Billingsley brought up the issue of the missing monument during a City Commission meeting last month. He said it once stood on the south side of the courthouse.

“I remember seeing it up until six months ago and notice it missing around the beer festival,” Billingsley told Decaturish. “A tree was planted where the monument formally stood.  I can only guess that it was removed temporally for the tree planting and would later be repositioned nearby.”

His guess is as good as anybody’s. Even city leaders are stumped. Mayor Jim Baskett promised Billingsley he’d look into it.

Harold Byrd served in the 327th Infantry in World War I and died after being struck by an artillery shell in Argonne Forest, according to “Decatur,” a history book written by local author Joe Earle.

Billingsley said he’s always wanted to know more about Byrd and has managed to piece together a few details.

“He was from Lawrenceville where he’s buried.  There are a number of monuments dedicated to his memory in Gwinnett and DeKalb,” Billingsley said. “I remember reading that he was a popular businessman here in Decatur, maybe insurance.  He must have lived in Decatur but where? Google had an article from the AJC after his death that Decatur citizens were raising money for a memorial in his honor.  He was killed by a high explosive shell in 1918. His memorial on the square was similar to Marian Footman Wilsons. Wish I knew more.”

He did not have any photos of the monument.

During the April 20 City Commission meeting, Baskett asked for a report from Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon about the monument. No one seems to know where it is, Saxon said.

“I’ve checked with DeKalb County, their facilities maintenance folks, they don’t know what happened to it,” he told commissioners.