Famous non-Missouri military figure dies

Hannibal  non-native Sherman Tecumseh Potter, a career military officer, died on Pearl Harbor Day at the age of 96.  Potter was a veteran of World Wars I and II and the Korean War.  He was a medical doctor in his civilian and in his military life.

He was named for the great Missouri Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Throughout his life he could proudly recite his military serial number,  RA41021629.

He commanded the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit in South Korea through most of the Korean conflict after its original commander was killed in a helicopter crash.

When the armistice was signed and the hospital unit was disbanded, Potter retired from the Army and returned to his wife, Mildred, in Missouri, planning to become “a semi-retired country doctor.” However, he found retirement in Hannibal boring and when Mildred suggested he go back to work, Potter contacted the Veterans Administration which hired him as chief of staff and chief of surgery at the General Pershing VA Hospital in River Bend, Missouri.  He was joined there by a three of the of members of his unit in Korea, Walter O’Reilly, who had rescued a horse in Korea and presented it to Potter as a gift (Potter named her Sophie),  Max Klinger, and Father Francis Mulcahy.  Mulcahy had been a chaplain for Potter’s unit in Korea.

Potter retired after a short stint at the hospital he and the staff referred to as “General General” and he lived quietly in California until his death.  He is survived by his son, Cory, and his daughter, Evy.

Potter is remembered in Hannibal fondly, in a similar vein as other Hannibal natives Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher.  The Friends of Historic Hannibal and the Marion County Historical Society recognize a home at 1922 Prairie Street as the “Col. Sherman T. Potter House,” and notes on their website, “Research shows that if he were real, this is the house he would have lived in.”

Actually Sherman T. Potter was only the best-remembered name that actor Harry Morgan used in a long career of radio, movies, television, and the stage.  Morgan’s early movies identified him as Henry Morgan but he changed his name to avoid confusion with then-popular comedian Henry Morgan.  He was born in Michigan as Harry Bratsberg and became an actor while studying law at the University of Chicago. In one twist in his career, he portrayed U.S. Grant in the movie “How the West was Won,” in a scene with John Wayne, who played William Tecumseh Sherman.

He appeared briefly in one of Glenn Miller’s Movies, “Orchestra Wives” as a young man with a date pushing their way to the stage during a Miller band performance.  Years later, he played Chummy McGregor, Miller’s pianist, in the biopic, “The Glenn Miller Story.”

He did die yesterday at the age of 96, one of our most memorable non-Missouri Missourians.

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