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

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 25, 2015
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.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • P Gore

    There is a Harold Byrd Drive in Decatur. Actually two of them, North and South. They are behind Westchester Elementary. One intersects Mockingbird Lane, and the other is directly across Peavine Creek and goes toward the YMCA. I researched him a number of years ago and was told he lived in this area.

    • Gina Rubino Seymour

      His full name per his World War I military record is Lt. George Harold Byrd. He started at Ft. McPherson here in Georgia when he enrolled in 1917. He was awarded the Silver Star and was initially buried in Sommerance Cemetery. He had at least two connections with Dekalb county. His brother Daniel Madison Byrd died here but his sister Georgia Byrd Candler died in 1981 in the City of Decatur. She is buried in the City of Decatur Cemetery per She is listed on as a sibling of Lt. Byrd. In September of 1921, his body was returned to Georgia for internment per an article in the AJC dated September 17, 1921. It noted he worked for Haas & McIntyre who were insurance agents and that he resided in Decatur. His memorial address was by C.M. Candler who was the chairman of the Railroad Commission. C.M. Candler was the father of George Scott Candler who would marry Harold’s sister. He also was a twin to his sister Hallie Mae Byrd who married Senator J.W. Blake’s son Wilbur Blake of South Dakota in 1913 per the AJC. So his family appears to have been very well connected in the Atlanta metro area. Found an interesting article from 2007 as well. His great nephew was honoring him and other vets. Granted the article as a typo regarding which war but still interesting. Yes – I couldn’t sleep tonight so I did some digging. I hope they find the statue honoring him.

  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks Dan. Matt@11Alive called me at home around 9:30 Monday morning and asked to meet on the square at 11:00 (how he got my home phone or knew about the missing monument I haven’t a clue). I am generally suspicious of reporters I don’t know. You never know their agenda so I discussed the meeting with my wife and contacted and invited two commissioners to join us on the square (but they couldn’t attend). My wife reminded me that reporters will use silence to encourage conversation and that I should not fall into that trap. The interview took place on the square and at the cemetery. It was over one hour. Matt@11Alive acted in a professional manner and I was impressed that he spent so much time on the story. Of the many things that were discussed, two important ideas were left out of the final segment.
    1. I made it clear that the city commission was concerned about finding the monument and restoring it to the square.
    2. “Is there anything you would like our viewers to know that we haven’t covered?” I said something like this: “I want people to know that the City of Decatur reveres its history as much as any community in the surrounding area and that we honor those who sacrificed their lives in the past so we could enjoy freedom today.”
    I fear that some people will view the piece in a negative way but that was not my intent. Oh Well!
    Thanks for posting the Memorial Day Weekend pictures and my comments. I plan on attending the next commission meeting to thank those who contributed to the activities and the commissioners themselves for allowing me the privilege of organizing Memorial Day Weekend activities.

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