EM3c Charles Louis Jr. Echols,

Unknown Sailor

EM3c Charles Louis Jr. Echols

Charles Louis Echols Jr. faithfully corresponded with Santa when he was a boy.

“Please bring me a cow boy suit and a nice rain coat to wear to school,” he wrote in 1927. “I also want lots of fruit and candy, and please don’t forget my brother and mother. Bring my mother a blue silk umbrella and a box of candy. Bring me a ball and marbles. Bring our baby a by-low swing and a rattler. He is six months old, his name is Jack.”

The next year he asked for a bicycle, fireworks, fruits, and candy, signing as “your friend.” Both letters were published in The Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News.

The boy was born Dec. 20, 1918 in Youngblood, about 40 miles south-southeast of Montgomery Alabama to Ola Kelly Echols, a homemaker, and Charles Echols Sr., then a  mining engineer. By 1920 the family lived about 110 miles to the northwest in Bibb County east-southeast of Tuscaloosa. Young Charles was three when his mother died. His father married Stella Williams in 1924 and their son, Robert Jackson “Jack” was born in 1927 in Peterson, a village 10 miles due east of Tuscaloosa. 

By 1930 the family had moved about 7 miles east-northeast to Brookwood, but by 1936 the father worked for Black Diamond Coal Mining Co. in Marion County, Tennessee next to the Alabama-Georgia border. That was in southeastern Tennessee. After about a year in Whitwell near Chattanooga, Charles Jr. attended Pruden High School in the northeast tip of the state close to Kentucky from November 1935 to May 1938. Till late 1939 he worked as a coal weigher in Marion for Black Diamond.

He enlisted in the Navy on Jan. 17, 1940. Mr. Echols was an electrician’s mate and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

His “baby” brother served in the Navy near the end of World War II. Their sister, Louise, was a surgical nurse in the Army Nurses Corps.

Sources: The Knoxville (Tennessee) Journal; the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star; the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Census; Navy muster rolls; grave markers; East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
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