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For Sale: 1941 Aggie Ring

Stephanie Cannon '06 June 6, 2014 8:50 AM

Photo captions in order of appearance: 
Big picture: The Aggies Rings of best friends Henry Beville and Paul G. Haines, Jr. Both men
were killed in action in World War II.

Alexander Henry Beville ’41 and Paul G. Haines, Jr. ’41 in their Ross Volunteer uniforms.

The author, Jim Thompson ’68, with Lamar Haines ’44, Paul’s younger brother, and Sarah Edwards ’07, Paul’s great niece.

Originally published in the 2012 January/February issue of
Texas Aggie magazine.
By James R. Thompson ’68

This story is proof of the power of the Aggie Ring. There are three Aggie Rings in my family—mine and two of my sons—but I want to share a story of a journey I have made with the Ring of an Aggie whom I never knew. This three-year journey has caused me, more than ever, to appreciate what the Aggie Ring represents.

My wife, Donna Beth, and I drove from Kaufman, Texas, to Waco in March of 2008 to attend a western and Indian artifacts auction just for a fun weekend. We realized after buying a catalogue that the auction included some old jewelry from a Waco estate. We were surprised to see a 1941 Aggie Ring among the items for sale. I decided to buy the Ring, and although I didn’t know for sure what I would do with it, I knew I couldn’t let someone melt it down for the gold. I was successful in being the high bidder and pleased that I had kept it in the Aggie family. 

Donna Beth asked me “Well, what are you going to do now?” I replied, “I’m going to find out who Alexander Henry Beville was!”—because that was the name inscribed inside the Class of ’41 Ring. When I said that, I didn’t realize how much of my time, resources, and energy I would spend over the next three years finding out who this Class of ’41 Aggie was. And, by the way, the high rate of return on my investment was a windfall of great memories and new Aggie friends.

Alexander Henry Beville ’41 (pronounced like Seville) was a tall, lanky, shy kid who graduated in 1937 from Waco High School and headed for the A&M College of Texas with his best friend, Paul G. Haines, Jr. ’41. As friends, how close were they?  A high school classmate of theirs, Pauline Charney, the 91-year-old sister of Lloyd Bailey ’44, said they were called Damon and Pythias after the characters in Greek mythology who demonstrated their friendship by being willing to risk their lives for each other. So these two close friends became Aggies in the Corps of Cadets and were quite successful with both becoming Ross Volunteers and Paul becoming Deputy Corps Commander. 

They both accepted commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army upon graduation in May of 1941. The Class of 1941 graduated 1,506 Aggies that year, and the majority of them entered the armed forces in service to their country. When Henry and Paul left Aggieland in 1941, it would be the last time they would ever see each other. The Class of 1941 lost nearly 100 young men in World War II, and the two best friends from Waco were among them.

Henry Beville was a first lieutenant in the 77th Field Artillery, Battalion D, and was killed on Jan. 11, 1944, near Monte Cassino, Italy, by a German “Bouncing Betty” mine. His very best friend and fellow Aggie, 1st Lt. Paul Haines, was killed on Feb. 24, 1945, in a tank battle near Hambach, Germany, while commanding Company C, 744th Tank Battalion. Fortunately, the story does not end there as these two Aggie buddies created quite a legacy that has endured and that I became a part of when I happened upon Henry’s Aggie Ring.

Henry Beville ’41 was wearing his Aggie Ring when he was killed and it was ultimately returned to his family in 1944. His body was returned to Texas in 1948 for burial at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. His only sibling was a younger sister, Jane Katherine Beville, who was a graduate of the University of Texas, and she wore his Aggie Ring until she died in 2007. Neither of them had children, so with no descendants to inherit her estate, Henry’s Aggie Ring was sent to the auction in 2008.

I spoke to several of Henry’s classmates and other underclassmen cadets who were in Henry’s outfit, “B” Battery Artillery. To a man, they all said Henry was a really nice guy and everyone liked him. Fish Grady Lane ’44, who lived across the hall from Henry and Billy Brown, who were both seniors, said that even when Henry paddled him, he took it easy on him. Grady also told me that he waited tables at Franklin’s Restaurant, where all the Hollywood people frequented while they were making the movie We’ve Never Been Licked. The director of the movie, Walter Wanger, once tipped him $25 for his meal service, which would still be a great tip today.

Henry was involved and active as a cadet, becoming a Ross Volunteer, a member of the Marketing and Finance Club, Town Hall, the A.S.M.E., the Waco and McLennan County A&M Club and a Distinguished Student. A&M and the Corps of Cadets seemed to be the catalyst for this shy cadet from Waco to get involved in school activities. I also found out from Paul Haines’ younger brother, Lamar Haines ’44, that Henry had a lead foot and was fond of speed, as in driving a vehicle. Lamar was standing on the corner by the Austin Avenue Methodist Church in Waco and witnessed Henry turn his car completely over in the intersection while trying to avoid hitting his father, who was also entering the intersection! Needless to say, when Henry crawled out from the window of his car, his father was not amused and sent him running home on foot. I was able to confirm his love for fast cars when I came across a U.S. Army inquiry into an incident when, during boot camp, he turned over a car with a young lady in it. Everyone escaped any serious injury during his driving escapades, but the mild-mannered, somewhat shy Henry was a daredevil driver!

What caused this story to expand into another Aggie family was Henry’s close relationship with Paul Haines, Jr. ’41. While researching Henry Beville, I began to uncover an uncanny number of Aggie connections to myself. Upon realizing that Paul Haines, Jr. was Henry’s best friend, I started trying to find some of Paul’s descendants. The first one I found was Paul’s great niece, Sarah Edwards ’07, who works for Texas A&M in student government in the Koldus Building. It turns out that Sarah’s dad, Wayne Edwards ’72, just happened to be one of my very best students in U.S. Air Force pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Del Rio, Texas, when I was a T-38 instructor pilot. 

Wayne’s sister, Katherine Edwards ’75, lives in College Station and works for A&M as well. They and their cousins Carol and Langston Wood ’57 of Waco led me to their uncle Lamar Haines ’44, who lives in Bryan. All four of the Haines brothers graduated from Texas A&M—Paul, Jr. ’41, Lamar ’44, Keith ’47 and David ’51—and they all wore the same pair of Aggie boots, which are bronzed in a glass case on display in the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center. The four brothers were destined for A&M since their father Paul G. Haines, Sr. was Class of 1917 and a star athlete on the Aggie track team.

Lamar Haines was only 10 miles away in the same battle in Germany when his brother Paul was killed. Lamar was a spotter on an L-4 Piper Cub serving in the 193rd Field Artillery Battalion near the Ruhr River in Germany. Another Aggie who was in the band with Lamar was Joe Gordon ’43, and he was an L-4 Piper Cub pilot flying in the same area. My wife’s Aggie uncle, Ray Cowart ’43, went through L-4 Pilot training with Joe Gordon and was mentioned in Joe’s book Flying Low, which was written about his adventures in the L-4,  including being shot down twice. 

Paul Haines, Jr., Henry’s best friend and Lamar’s older brother, was brought back to the States for burial in November 1948. One of his best friends and classmates was Maj. Gen. Bill Becker ’41, who had been the Class of ’41 Corps Commander when Paul was the Deputy Corps Commander. Bill Becker had returned from serving in the South Pacific and was stationed at the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets ROTC detachment. Bill was in College Station as was Paul’s family when he was returned there for burial. Maj. Gen. Bill Becker is from Kaufman, Texas, and that’s where my family has lived for the last 28 years. His grandsons grew up and went to Kaufman schools with my sons. Bill Becker and I lost another great Aggie friend from Kaufman this past year, when Roy Chappell, Jr. ’41 passed away.  He too was a classmate of Henry Beville and Paul Haines, Jr. 

Henry Beville’s Aggie Ring is the one common denominator that connected me to multiple generations of Aggies. It has been a rewarding journey for me to really find out who Henry was. I learned who he was, I met Aggies who knew him, I met the family of his best friend, I renewed friendships with Aggies who knew both of us and I reinforced my love and respect for Texas A&M and the great Aggies who have come before me. One of those Aggies is Lamar Haines ’44, who I was able to sit down with as he searched his memory of his brother Paul and best friend Henry. One of the top 10 days of my life was when I had the opportunity to speak to the Corps of Cadets in March of this year in Rudder Theater. The occasion was my induction into the Corps of Cadet Hall of Honor and I took the opportunity to invite Lamar Haines to be there in the audience with my wife and our three Aggie sons. True to form, when I acknowledged the presence of Lamar to the Corps of Cadets, they gave him a standing ovation without any prompting from me. He slowly stood with his cane, turned around to face them, waved and gave them a Gig ’em sign with his Aggie Ring held high. But it wasn’t his Aggie Ring he was wearing. It was his brother Paul’s 1941 Ring that he had worn for 30 years since his mother gave it to him after he lost his own 1944 Ring. I was also wearing a 1941 Aggie Ring that day in addition to my own Class of ’68 Ring. It was Henry Beville’s Ring and we all realized that it had been 70 years since those two Aggies Rings had been together in Aggieland, when the two young cadets graduated in May 1941.

Henry Beville has no descendants but he will never be forgotten by his Aggie buddies and his Ring will never be auctioned again because it will reside at Aggieland from now on. Current and future Aggies will know the story of Henry and Paul and Damon and Pythias because they not only represent the best of the Class of 1941 but the best of Texas A&M, and the best this country has to offer. 2011 was the Class of ’41’s 70th Anniversary Reunion. Find one of them and thank him for his service and for Henry and Paul’s sacrifice for their country.

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