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Headstone Dedication for Doc McWilliams, Union Civil War Soldier and Lawrence Civil Rights Activist

A woman in a purple shirt sits next to the Civil War veteran headstone of Doc McWilliams at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas.
J. Schafer
Lawrence historian and retired KU theater professor Jeanne Klein sits next to a newly-made headstone for Doc McWilliams, a Civil War veteran buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

A number of Civil War veterans are buried in Lawrence's Oak Hill cemetery, but many of their headstones have been lost to history and time. This is particularly true for African Americans. One local historian -- Jeanne Klein -- is on a mission to change that. She and a group called the Sons of Union Veterans will dedicate a new headstone to one of these men, Doc McWilliams, Saturday afternoon. KPR's J. Schafer recently met up with Klein at Oak Hill cemetery.

The dedication of the new headstone for Civil War veteran Doc McWilliams will take place Saturday afternoon at 1 o'clock at Oak Hill cemetery. The dedication will include a cannon salute.

Read this dedication update from the Lawrence Journal-World.

A headstone for Civil War veteran Doc McWilliams in Lawrence's Oak Hill cemetery
J. Schafer
This newly-made headstone for Civil War veteran Doc McWilliams was donated by Warren-McElwain Mortuary & Cremation Services in Lawrence. The headstone will be dedicated Saturday, September 30th 2023 at 1 pm by the local chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans. A canon salute will be part of the dedication.

Information provided by Sons of Union Veterans and Jeanne Klein, a Lawrence historian and retired theater professor at the University of Kansas:

Mr. McWilliams was a member of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Co. G. He enlisted February 7, 1863 and was mustered out October 1, 1865. The 1st Kansas was the first Black regiment to be organized in a northern state and the first Black unit to see combat in the Civil War at the Battle of Island Mound in Missouri on October 29, 1862. The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry ceased to exist on December 13, 1864 when it became a US Army unit with a designation of the 79th Regiment Infantry US Colored Troops.

After the war, Mr. McWilliams was a civil rights leader in local and state Republican politics. He was a Commander of the George W. Deitzler Grand Army of the Republic Post 365 in Lawrence in 1887. This post was later renamed the Samuel J. Walker Post 365.

J. Schafer

J. Schafer is the News Director of Kansas Public Radio. He’s also the Managing Editor of the Kansas Public Radio Network, which provides news and information to other public radio stations in Kansas and Missouri.