The central Arkansas town of El Paso was already in economic decline when William Thermon Barnett was born there on Jan. 9, 1922.
The Great Depression made things even more difficult. The 1940 Census said that Mr. Barnett’s father, W. A., derived no income from his farm the previous year. Most neighboring farmers reported the same. El Paso’s population fell to 451 — down nearly a third from 1920.
Thermon, as he was known, attended El Paso High School and enlisted in the Navy on March 28, 1941. By July he was serving on the U.S.S. Arizona, a battleship with more than three times more people than his hometown.
He was a seaman second class when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
A service honored him in September 1942 at El Paso Baptist Church. A cenotaph at Blasingame Cemetery in El Paso marks his life and military service. His mother, Irene Blasingame Barnett, is buried there.
Mr. Barnett’s younger brother, Noble, served in the Army during World War II.