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A meaningful Memorial Day: Clemson will honor 498th alumnus who gave the ultimate sacrifice


An American flag blows in the upper left corner of the frame in front of a mound ringed by rocks and topped by thick green glass, immaculately manicured, sits amid rows of trees.
The Scroll of Honor in Clemson Memorial Park
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Clemson University’s premier military veteran alumni group, Clemson Corps, will add the 498th name to the Scroll of Honor during a Memorial Day event at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 28, in Clemson’s Memorial Park. A stone etched with the name of Cpl. Harold C. Pearce ’51, who served in both WWII and the Korean War, will be unveiled during the solemn ceremony. Pearce was killed by machine gun fire while serving as a military police officer with the 24th Infantry Division in Taejon, Korea, on July 20, 1950. He was 25.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Danny Rhodes ’68, a founding member of Clemson Corps, will be the featured speaker at the ceremony.

An old black and white photo of a man in military dress uniform
Harold Pearce in Army dress uniform.

“My family and I made sacrifices during the 26 years in which I served in the U.S. Army, but, thank God, I did not have to make the ultimate sacrifice,” said Rhodes. “These 498 heroes did.  We have been conducting these Memorial Day services since 2015. I will continue to attend them as long as I am physically able because I want to honor the memory of those whose sacrifices have provided us the freedom to conduct such services.”

Rhodes was part of the Clemson Corps team that began collecting names of Clemson alumni who had given the ultimate sacrifice to our country in 2001. In November 2002, they unveiled a portable Scroll of Honor with approximately 350 names at Military Appreciation Day. Their research continued, and they dedicated the permanent Scroll of Honor in April 2010 with 468 names.

“We had thought at that time that we probably identified all alumni who deserved this honor,” said Rhodes. “But nominations continued to be received, and our subsequent research has identified more alumni who qualified for inclusion on the Scroll of Honor.”

Pearce will be the 30th name added to the Scroll since its dedication. “Buck” Pearce grew up on a farm in the small community of Little Rock and graduated from Dillon High School. He enlisted in the Army in 1945 and was discharged during the troop reductions after WWII. He enrolled in Clemson College in 1947 but left after a year and reenlisted in the Army.

That one year still qualifies him to be enshrined in the Scroll of Honor. Nominees only need to have attended Clemson, not graduated. For instance, many of the classes during WWI and WWII were sent to war before graduating, and not all returned to finish their degrees.

Pearce’s unit was under such heavy attack that his body could not be recovered after he was killed. Eventually, his remains were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the “Punchbowl,” in Honolulu, Hawaii, as “Unknown X-210 Taejon.” In August 2018, the Defense Department approved a proposed project from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to disinter 652 Korean War Unknowns from the Punchbowl for reexamination, scientific testing and possible identification. In July 2019, Pearce’s family received a phone call telling them his remains had been identified. He was buried with full military honors at Catfish Creek Baptist Church Cemetery near Latta on September 26, 2019.

A grave stone with the name of Harold C Pearce surrounded by green grass

The story of Pearce’s sacrifice was discovered by a chance glance at a newspaper obituary by Bill Gore, a friend of Clemson Corps member Claude Cooper, in September 2019. The obit mentioned that Pearce had attended Clemson, so Gore emailed a copy to Cooper and asked if Pearce should be added to the Scroll. Cooper made an inquiry to the University Registrar and received a letter informing him that Harold “Buck” Pearce had indeed been a student at Clemson studying engineering from February 1947 to December 1948.

“I am honored to be a part of Clemson Corps and to see how we find out about alumni who have died. The research that is done by those on the Memorials Committee is extensive to ensure those who have a stone on the Scroll of Honor died in service to our nation,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmy Mullinax ’94, director of facilities and operations for campus recreation and current president of Clemson Corps. “This memorial is a direct reflection of our founding as a military institution, and that same spirit of service that guided Clemson in its beginning still lives in us today. The Scroll of Honor and Memorial Park are physical reminders of that. On this Memorial Day and every day, those at Clemson can see the sacrifices made to protect our freedoms.”

Pearce’s surviving family includes a brother, the Rev. Pat Pearce, sisters Hazel Pearce Allen and Ann Pearce, and nieces. Pat Pearce and his wife, Lessie, are planning to attend the Memorial Day ceremony on Sunday, as well as sister Ann Pearce, nieces Kay Bartz, and Kathy and her husband, Fred Jarman.