Second-most-decorated soldier of World War I was Austinite
Alfred ‘Buck’ Simpson part of big Hill Country clan of cedar choppers.
Reader Darlene Freitag wondered if we could write about her grandfather, Pvt. Alfred Robert “Buck” Simpson, the second-most-decorated American World War I veteran.
The timing is apt given the upcoming 100th anniversary of the war’s end in November 1918.
“He was raised in the Bee Cave area where he was a cedar chopper by trade,” Freitag writes. “I believe his story would interest not only Texans in the area but others as well.”
Born in 1895, “Fighting Buck” appears to have been nearly as effective a marksman as Sgt. Alvin York, the most-decorated veteran of the Great War.
On the other hand, Simpson could claim the quicker temper, as stories about his time in the Austin area confirm. By way of contrast, Hollywood star Gary Cooper won a best actor Oscar for the 1941 movie about the more stoical York, who was from Tennessee.
In his excellent book, “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing,” Ken Roberts describes Simpson as part of a
large Hill Country clan, unusually productive harvesting cedar in the brakes.
On Oct. 11, 1918, during the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne near Somme-Py, France, Simpson captured a machine gun unaided and turned it on the Germans.
According to Roberts, his captain wrote to the family: “I told him to run, but he told me: ‘Hell, I come from Texas, and I don’t run from nobody.’” (Naturally, the exact phrasing differs in various accounts.)
Austin tried to reward Simpson by teaching him how to read and hiring him as a guard at the Capitol.
He quit school because: “I got tired of a bunch of little bitty kids smarter than me.” He couldn’t tell time or punch a clock, so he was fired from his job at the Capitol.
According to his gravestone at the Roberts-Teague Cemetery at Cliffs Edge Drive and Creeks Edge Parkway in the Barton Creek West subdivision, Simpson died at age 73 in 1969.
Believe me, there are many more Buck Simpson stories out there, including brushes with the law and a stint in prison, and Freitag has promised to show me her grandfather’s memorabilia.
Almost seven years after his actions in World War I, Pvt. “Buck” Simpson told the Austin Statesman about his exploits for the Sept. 17, 1925, edition.