John S. Buchanan
by David Beard

 

This inspiring man, husband, father, military hero and teacher, was born in Dallas, Texas on February 15, 1917. He graduated from The University of Texas in 1938 with a degree in sociology and a minor in music.

His first job was as a band director at Yancy, Texas, and in the fall of 1940, at the request of the Superintendent of Schools, he started a new band at Burkeville. By that time Hitler had invaded Poland and war loomed. At the end of the school year his superintendent informed him that the draft board wanted him to report to the Army the next day. The Superintendent had asked the draft board to refrain from “touching” him until the very last minute in order that he would leave behind a strong band organization.

Instead of reporting to the Army, Mr. Buchanan joined the U.S. Air Corps, where his brother was already serving. Based on information given them by his brother, he was made a band director again. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mr. Buchanan took advantage of an opportunity to enroll in preflight training at what was, at the time, Kelly Field. He became a member of the group who constituted the Army Air Corps. He was then transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps Navigation and Training School in Hondo where he spent eighteen months.

John and Mary Tom Neal were married at Concan, Texas in September, 1945. They had four children, Mary Anna, Helen, Susan and John Thomas.

During World War II he served in North Africa, Malta, Sicily and Italy. Returning to the states and to Uvalde, he and Mary Tom were both employed in the school system. He resumed his band directing career. Six years later he was reactivated when the Korean Conflict broke out.

In a 1952 article written for the Uvalde Leader-News, JoAnn Goodell wrote that in World War II, Mr. Buchanan earned The Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters and a Purple Heart. In addition he was awarded the European Campaign Medal with four battle stars, The American Defense Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal. For his Korean service Mr. Buchanan received the Commendation Ribbon at the direction of the Secretary of the Air Force.

John Buchanan once again returned home to Uvalde and resumed his position as band director, where he remained for many years before retiring from the school system and assuming a position as an instructor at Southwest Texas Junior College for awhile. It was in his capacity as UHS band director that so many of us met him and developed great admiration and respect for him. Through some mechanism, he managed to obtain tickets for his students to concerts, operas and other artistic performances in San Antonio where we were exposed to cultural activities not available in our hometown. He would arrange for a bus to take us and was known to, upon our late night returns, follow students who lived several miles out of town to make sure they got home safely.

He is a man who was patient at the screeching of instruments as their amateur, beginning students were learning to master them. He is a very compassionate man who loved his students as if they were his own. He made me feel like a star when I was the band’s drum major and always encouraged me to set goals and to succeed in accomplishing them. I was very proud of the nickname he gave me - "Lone Star".

I visited him in 2002 after many years without any communication between us. He was in his yard when we drove up, unannounced. The moment he saw me he uttered, rather loudly, “Well, Lone Star, how ARE you?” I guess I did impress him and I will always consider him a dear friend.

(Much of this biography was extracted from the Sunday, November 10, 2002 issue of The Uvalde Leader-News.)