Pvt. Edward O. Cleaborn

Our wonderful story is about Edward O. Cleaborn. A forgotten Memphis hero, this 18-year-old U.S. Army Private gave up his own life in Korea to save the lives of his company. Determined to save the lives of his buddies, some severely wounded, he left the safety of his fox hole to single-handedly man a machine gun which he fired until it seared his hands. His entire Infantry Company Twenty Fourth Infantry Regiment, Twenty-Fifth Division, retreated to cover wounded comrades. Edward O. Cleaborn was born May 2, 1932 and died August 15, 1950 as a U.S. Army private and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He graduated from Booker T .Washington High School where he was known as an easy-going young man who got along with classmates and teachers alike. He was one of 9 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Everett Cleaborn. They lived in a three-room home located in Bailey’s Alley. The Alley ran off Pennsylvania St. south of Trigg Ave. in South Memphis, where his father worked at the South Memphis Stockyards.

Mayor Watkins Overton led the funeral procession of both black and white Memphians. More than 3500 turned out to honor him as Lt. General John R. Hodge, commanding officer of the Third Army flew in from Atlanta to present the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award given to a military hero. High ranking military officers from all the branches of the service in Memphis were present. Mrs. C.P. J. Mooney, widow of the late editor of the Commercial Appeal newspaper, and cotton man Tom J. White set up a special fund to help his family. 

Cleaborn  Homes. The 572-unit Public Housing Project was named to honor the memory of this young Memphis man for his extraordinary heroism in the Korean conflict.  Private Cleaborn is buried at the Memphis National Cemetery. plot D, 833. 

Thanks to Nicole Cleaborn or her assistance in the preparation of this article.

Written by Joe Lowry with research and editorial assistance by Trish Gully.

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