Maj. Gen. William Edgar Read

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 6, 2009

MORGANTON, N.C. — Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Edgar “Bill” Read, 81, died Wednesday, March 4, 2009, following a period of declining health.

Maj. Gen. Read, who had served in Vicksburg, was born in Charlotte, N.C., on May 17, 1927, and was a son of the late William Edgar Read and Virginia Clark Read. In 1944, he graduated from Morganton High School, where he played tailback on the football team. He enlisted in the service the day after his graduation and served for two years before he received an appointment to West Point from Rep. Sam Ervin.

He graduated from West Point in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree and, in later years, he received a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois and a business administration degree from Webster College in St. Louis, Mo. He continued his education with the Advanced Management Program at Harvard, Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.

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During his career, Maj. Gen. Read served in Korea and had three commands in Vietnam. Following his war service, he served as the assistant military attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel; was the district engineer in Tulsa, Okla.; was the assistant chief of engineers in Washington, D.C.; and, upon presidential appointment, served as the 27th president of the Mississippi River Commission in Vicksburg from December 1981 to September 1984.

His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star and the Air Medal.

Maj. Gen. Read also served as the staff officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Operations and with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., and was the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Systems Command in St. Louis.

During his 33 years of active duty, Maj. Gen. Read was stationed in nine different states and four different overseas assignments along with his wife of 55 years, Mary Ann, and their three daughters. His last duty assignment was in Vicksburg as MRC president, Division engineer of the Lower Mississippi Valley Division and president of the Lower Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association.

Upon his retirement from the U.S. Army, the Reads moved to Gulfport, where he worked for Walk, Haydel & Associates. In 2002, they again retired and moved home to Morganton to reside at Grace Ridge.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Ann Gregory Read; daughters and their husbands, Mary Virginia “Ginger” and Gerard T. Hopkins of New Windsor, N.Y., Ann Kirby and Andrew H. Weber of Pipersville, Pa., and Sarah Correll “Sallie” and Hunter Fordice of Vicksburg; grandsons, Gerard Thomas Hopkins Jr. and his wife, Dolores, William Read Hopkins, Stephen Michael Hopkins, Andrew Joseph Weber and Robert Read Weber and his wife, Danielle; granddaughters, Hilary Ann Weber, Georgina Roxanne Weber, Lauren Virginia Fordice, Emily Louise Fordice, Helen Frances Fordice and Sarah Hunter Fordice; and cousins, Sarah Florence Gilbert and Hal V. Brown Jr.

The family will receive friends from 10:30 a.m. until noon Monday, March 9, 2009, in the First United Methodist Church fellowship hall of Morganton. The funeral will follow at noon in the sanctuary with Rev. Dr. Syndor Thompson III officiating. Burial will follow at Forest Hill Cemetery with military honors conducted by the Fort Bragg Honor Guard.

Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, 200 N. King St., Morganton, NC 28655 or to Grace Ridge Scholarship Fund, 500 Lenoir Road, Morganton, NC 28655.

Condolences may be made online at Sossoman Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.