SK3c Clay Cooper Rector

Unknown Sailor

SK3c Clay Cooper Rector

A few months before he was killed at Pearl Harbor, Clay Cooper Rector bought a house for his parents in Albany, Kentucky. He never lived to see it.

Mr. Rector was a storekeeper and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941.

The oldest of eight children, he was born June 27, 1920 at Murl, a tiny community in south-central Kentucky. His father, Wendell Rector, operated a general store, and his mother, Lela Cooper Rector, was a homemaker. The family eventually moved 15 miles southwest to Albany, a town of about 1,000, where the father became a barber.

Clay Rector enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 5, 1939, and planned to make the Navy his career, his mother said in an interview. “He was just a happy-go-lucky feller,” she said.

A memorial service paid tribute to him at the Albany Baptist Church in February 1942.

A brother, Wendell, also served in the Navy. Two sisters, Pauline and Josephine, served in the Women’s Army Corps.

Thirty-six years after her son’s death, Lela, by then widowed, was able to visit the sunken Arizona and its memorial shrine in August 1978 thanks to about 100 neighbors and friends who donated nearly $1,500. The two women who led the fund-raising effort completed their mission in two days, and one said it was the easiest thing she had ever done. Mrs. Rector, she explained, had befriended many people in her church and town, and their donations recognized her kindness.


Sources: The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky; the Wayne County (Kentucky) Outlook; the Russell County (Kentucky) News; Census; grave marker; Women’s Army Corps enlistment records. Photo courtesy of relative Colette Walls. 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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