Colonel Archer Morton Baird, family patriarch, southern gentleman, friend and patriot passed away peacefully on Friday, January 18, 2013 at his home in San Antonio, Texas. At the age of 97, after a lifetime filled with adventure and discovery, challenges and achievement, Arch has reunited with his beloved wife, Nan Pollard Baird.
Arch was born on September 4, 1915 in Columbus, Georgia to Morton Williams Baird and Archer Whittlesey Baird, the eldest of five children, and grew up in the beautiful rolling hills of Georgia and Alabama. Arch laughingly recalled driving these hills in a Model T. Ford, whose engine was much more powerful in reverse; particularly steep hills had to be scaled driving backwards.
After high school, he enrolled in Georgia Tech and worked in Atlanta and Chattanooga. In 1941, just before America's entry into the Second World War, Arch volunteered for the Army Air Corps and commenced training at Craig Field in Selma, Alabama. While at Craig, he met Nan Pollard, the beautiful younger sister of a high school classmate and after a brief, whirlwind romance they married in Birmingham, Alabama. Shortly thereafter, he left for England to join the 351st Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force stationed at Polebrook RAB in East Anglia. Arch was part of the first group of B-17s that flew non-stop across the Atlantic to the English bomber bases.
On his first day at Polebrook, Arch witnessed a midair collision of two B-17s that took lives of all the men on board, including the squadron's lead bombardier. Arch was chosen to replace that lost squadron bombardier and he spent the next year leading bombing runs over Germany, Belgium, Norway and France. Along the way, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal and flew with Clark Gable while Gable was at Polebrook making a War Department movie about the 8th Air Force. According to Arch, Gable was a good guy, a regular guy, one who was not afraid to go into battle and to do his duty. Throughout his time at war, a photo of his wife, Nan hung over his cot, a reminder of why he was fighting and what he had to look forward to after his safe return.
After a year of flying combat missions, Arch returned to the States and resumed civilian life for several years until the outbreak of the Korean War
, when he rejoined the Air Force where he remained for the rest of his career. Over the next three decades, Arch and his family moved from base to base, including two tours in Japan in the 1950s. During his last combat tour in Viet Nam, Arch commanded the 14th Aerial Port Squadron, recognized by the U.S. Air Force
as its best such unit in the world.
After retiring from his successful military career, Arch moved back to Greensboro, Alabama and restored a 150-year old home, formerly the residence of his great Uncle John Turpin, a one-armed Civil War Veteran. Many years earlier, when Arch was a little boy, he had often walked to his Uncle John's house to sit and listen to Turpin's riveting stories of the war. Those tales of danger, heroism and survival sparked Arch's lifelong passion for history and learning.
Arch and Nan jokingly named their restored home "Back Acre", a reference both to the large back yard and the massive effort undertaken to restore this historical residence. Back Acre became the family gathering place for their children and grandchildren. They cultivated a large garden filled with beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables. Their tomatoes, sweet corn, butter beans and roses were legendary. Between entertaining, gardening and spending time with their family, Arch and Nan loved to travel, discover new places and meet interesting people. Their love of adventures was infectious and was passed on to everyone in their family.
After Nan died in 1991, Arch sold Back Acre and moved to San Antonio, Texas where he spent the next 20 years attending his grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's ballet recitals, ball games and graduations. He was always the oldest person at these events but seemingly also the most energetic. Arch's gentle wit and southern manners were always welcome at any gathering and he developed a number of close friendships with other retired veterans. Their fun loving crowd threw legendary parties where war stories and funny jokes passed among close friends who all felt lucky to have made it back alive.
Arch is survived by a large, loving and vigorous family: two children, Harriett Manclark, Mote Baird and wife, Margie Baird; six grandchildren, Caroline Decherd and husband, Dr. Michael Decherd, John Manclark and wife, Amy Manclark, Bill Baird and wife, Laura Baird, Anne Campbell and husband, Cameron Campbell, Michael Baird, Elizabeth Stoehr and husband, Joel Stoehr; ten beautiful, sweet and intelligent great-granddaughters, Cally Decherd, Josie Decherd, Lucy Decherd, Francie Decherd, Emma Manclark, Cate Manclark, Grace Manclark, Basil Baird, Marguerite Campbell and Cora Campbell; his brother, Phillip Baird; numerous nephews and nieces, great nephews and great nieces and many cousins scattered throughout the south.
Tis evening on the moorland free
The starlit wave is still
Home is the sailor from the sea
The hunter from the hill
The family will receive friends from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at Porter Loring on McCullough.
JANUARY 26, 2013
PORTER LORING CHAPEL
After the service in San Antonio, Arch will be taken to Greensboro, Alabama for a funeral service at the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. Afterwards, he will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Nan Pollard Baird.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the "Col. Archer M. Baird Scholarship in Plan II", University of Texas
at Austin, D. Gebauer Bldg. University Station G 6000, Austin, Texas 78712-0579 attn. Josh Lodolo or to Christus VNA, 4241 Woodcock Dr., Ste, A100, San Antonio, TX 78228 or to a
The family is appreciative of those compassionate caregivers who made the end of his life peaceful and uplifting; Monica Alexis, Brittany Hill, Carmen Perez, Sharon Miller and Yolanda Moñtes; to those physicians, nurses and medical personnel at UTHSC who took the time to understand the true character of this man and to Christus Hospice VNA under the direction of Peggy de la Pena for the wonderful, respectful way they handled Arch's last days. Finally, the entire Baird/Manclark/Decherd/Campbell families extend heartfelt appreciation and love to his many friends who made Arch's life so joyful and complete.
You are invited to sign
the guestbook atwww.porterloring.com