The memory of World War II hero Jack Lucas will live on through a special academic award created to recognize the best paper written by a University of Southern Mississippi student on a topic in warfare history.
Lucas, a Hattiesburg resident who was the youngest marine to ever win the Medal of Honor, died June 5 at age 80. He served on the advisory board for the Southern Miss Department of History’s Study of War and Society program, which examines the impact of war and its relationship to society.
In recognition of his service to his country and to the university, the Jack Lucas Award will be presented yearly to the writer of the best student paper written on a war and society topic, and will include a $250 cash prize.
“In many ways, Jack Lucas defined what we in the Study of War and Society strive to do – to take the university’s study of war and link it to the community of veterans, military personnel and interested members of the community in a meaningful way,” said Southern Miss history professor Dr. Andrew Wiest, who serves as co-director for the Study of War and Society program.
Lucas threw himself on two grenades to protect fellow marines during fierce combat with Japanese soldiers at the Battle of Iwo Jima, and suffered severe injuries when one of the grenades exploded. He recovered after multiple surgeries, and at the end of the war was presented the Medal of Honor for his heroism by President Harry S. Truman during at the White House.
“He was a valued friend and a true hero in so many ways,” Wiest said. “He understood war and the need to teach today’s students and the leaders of tomorrow about war,” Wiest said.
Wiest said that because of the contributions of individuals like Lucas, Southern Miss’s program in the study of war is among the best in the nation and succeeding in its goal of establishing valuable outreach efforts to the community.
Richard McCarthy and Craig Howard, both supporters of Southern Miss and the Study of War and Society program, have created an endowment that funds the Jack Lucas Award and numerous outreach efforts that include a successful speaker series and community book club.
“With the support of interested members of the community like Lucas, McCarthy and Howard, our programming will continue to expand, allowing us to better understand war, better serve the community and better honor veterans like Jack Lucas,” Wiest said.
Lucas’s bravery in the face of death resonates with Southern Miss history doctoral student John Fitzmorris of New Orleans. His scoutmaster, whom he described as a “second father” to him when he was young, also fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“To have an award named for someone who set such an example of courage and devotion lends honor to the author of the winning paper and the entire history program,” Fitzmorris said.
About The University of Southern MississippiThe University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.