Franklin High School honored Carl Webb, a World War II veteran, on Thursday with a special honorary graduation ceremony. FHS’s principal, Chris Baldwin, presented Webb with an honorary high school diploma from the state of North Carolina in recognition of Webb’s dedication to serving the country, and educational accomplishments after being dismissed from the military.
Webb began attending Franklin High School in 1943 before receiving his draft notice in the fall of 1944 He was allowed to complete the 10th grade, and left for basic training in June of 1945. When Victory in Europe or “VE day” was announced on May 8th, 1945, Webb assumed he would be going to the Pacific, but instead he was assigned to Occupied Germany, where he stayed until he completed his military service in 1948.
Although only at FHS for a short time, Webb has fond memories of the school and remembers several of his former teachers. “I remember Mrs. Lois Fulton, she taught math,” said Webb. “I owe a lot to her, because that was maybe my only good math teacher.”
Based on Webb’s high scores on the entrance exam, and having obtained his G.E.D. while in the army, Webb was accepted to North Carolina State College, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry in 1953.
After Webb’s wife, Virginia, learned of “Operation Recognition,” she contacted the State Board of Education and worked with Pam Collins, Macon County School District Community Coordinator, to plan Thursday’s surprise ceremony for her husband. On May 17, 2001, Governor Easley signed Session Law 2001-86 into law, which directs the State Board of Education to issue special high school diplomas to all honorably discharged veterans of World War II who request the diploma and who have not previously received high school diplomas. The law was the result of a national effort known as Operation Recognition.
During the 1940s, thousands of young men and women across the country left high school and the comforts of home and hearth to serve selflessly in the armed forces during World War II. Their sacrifices ensured our freedom, built our country into a superpower, and shaped the course of history throughout the world. After the war, many of these veterans were not able to finish high school for various reasons, but led productive lives and built our communities over a lifetime.
To qualify for the specially issued diploma, veterans must have attended a North Carolina high school between the years of 1937 and 1946, with graduation class years of 1940-1950; left high school prior to graduation to enlist in the armed forces of the United States; served in WWII between Sept. 16, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1946; and been honorably discharged.
The special graduation ceremony not only honored Webb with a high school diploma, but Webb also received a tour of FHS, which was built on the same site of the building in which Webb attended high school. Webb’s sisters and older brother also made the trip to FHS to honor the veteran, which was also attended by Board of Education members Gary Shields and Tommy Cabe, along with Franklin’s Mayor Joe Collins and Macon County Commissioner Bobby Kuppers, and featured the FHS chorus, which led guests in singing the school song.
“This is a special moment for me, to be able to participate in this with Mr. Webb and his family,” said Pam Collins.
Webb was the fifth of eight children of Alley and May Webb. He was born in Demorest, Ga., where he first attended school during grades 1-3. The Webb family moved to Rabun Gap and Murphy, N.C., then to Franklin in the early 1940s. Carl’s father was a WWI veteran who was wounded and gassed in France – and in 1936 his father received the Adjusted Compensation Payment for WWI veterans – this was the result of the Bonus Army demand. With the receipt of the WWI bonus pay, Webb’s father was able to purchase his first home and farm for his family, which was outside of the Franklin city limits.
Webb married Traudle Webb in 1948 and after the military, moved back to North Carolina. He worked with the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years and retired in 1986. After the death of his first wife, Webb married Virginia Stephens in 1998 and they now live in Habersham County, Ga., where they have a bee keeping and honey business.