Dr. Lester Lee "Buck" Porter Jr. passed away Saturday, January 2, 2020, at the age of 96. Some may have loved Dublin and Laurens County as much as Porter, but no one loved it more.
Porter was born on December 27, 1924, the son of local attorney Lester Lee Porter and educator Ruth Guyton Hicks Porter. His ancestors were among the earliest settlers in Laurens, Johnson, and Wilkinson counties. While at the University of Georgia after World War II, Porter met the love of his life, Katherine DuBose Davis, and they were married in Atlanta on May 28, 1949. Katherine predeceased Buck on August 13, 1996. Porter frequently said that Katherine "made his life a paradise."
Porter was predeceased by his parents and his sister, Ruth Porter Wilheit, and is survived by four children, Dr. Lester Lee (Rosemary) Porter III of Nashville, Tennessee, and Stephen DuBose Porter, Dr. Edwin Kent Davis (Jeri) Porter and Katherine "Taffy" (Sam) Porter Beall of Laurens County. He is the proud grandfather to 10 grandchildren, Stephen Porter Jr., Guyton Porter, Asa (Natalie) Porter, Inman Porter, Hunter (Courtney) Beall, Katie Beall, Ben Beall, Melissa Porter (Jon) Barton, Allison Porter and Lacey Porter, and three great-grandchildren, William Beall, Jennings Beall, and Elias Barton.
Porter graduated from Dublin High School and enlisted in the United States Army in 1943, serving through 1946. He was assigned to the 12th Armored Division, 66th Armored Infantry Battalion Company A.
The 12th Armored Division was one of the best in the United States Army. It successfully defended Strasburg against overwhelming odds and was the armor in the liberation of Colmar. It also spearheaded Gen. Patton's drive to the Rhine.
Lester Porter led the first squad across the Danube River at Dillengen, Germany, capturing the second most important bridge in the battle for Europe, the bridge which gave the Seventh Army access to Hitler's last retreat. This played a major part in blocking the Brenner Pass, thereby trapping more than a million German soldiers in Italy as the war came to an end.
En route to the Brenner Pass, Porter's company liberated five concentration camps (sub-camps of Dachau) around Landsberg, Germany. In five months, the 12th Armored Division went from an untried, green combat division to being one of the enemy's most feared armored opponents. SPEED was their password during constant combat against Germany – speed coupled with deft, devastating striking power.
During 151 days of combat, the 12 Armored Division's accomplishments included: blasting through over 3000 cities and towns; Capturing 70,166 German prisoners (seven times its own strength); causing the fall of airfields, factories, ammunition, and supply dumps; capturing or disabling many railroad supply trains; destroying thousands of enemy vehicles and weapons; capturing German notables such as Werner Von Braun, the German rocket Scientist and Willy Messerschmidt, the German airplane builder; Liberating allied prisoners; and Liberating 11 German political concentration camps.
The fighting spirit and esprit de corp of the Hellcats made the 12th one of the fastest striking, most feared divisions on the Western Front during World War II.
Porter was wounded when a piece of shrapnel hit his thigh during the battle in what became known as "Bloody Herrlisheim." Herrlisheim is where the 12th was dubbed the "Suicide Division" by the Germans, who eventually withdrew, still puzzled by American tenacity. Porter said of the battle, "I caught some shrapnel in my left hip, and then a German shot my helmet off as I was evacuating the field and missed me three or four times as his bullets would hit the snow and bounced, spinning over me as I crawled out in a trail throughout the snow already red with the blood of wounded who had gone ahead of me."
Dr. Porter received the American Theatre of Operations Ribbon, the Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal, the European Theatre of Operation Medal, the Presidential Unit Citations, the Croix de Guerre and Foix de Guerre, the Rhineland Battle Star, the Central Europe Battle Star and the Combat Infantry Badge.
After serving in World War II, Porter attended the University of Georgia and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology in 1948 and then attended the Northern Illinois College of Optometry and graduated in 1951 with a Doctorate in Optometry and a Bachelor of Science degree in vision optics. He was admitted to practice by the Georgia Board of Optometry in 1951.
During his professional career, Porter received numerous awards for his service to his profession. He received the Distinguished Community Service Award by the Georgia Optometric Association in 1967 and served as its president for three terms. He was named "Optometrist of the Year" by his professional group in 1969. Porter received the Presidential Citation for his service to the Optometric practice in 1980 and was again named "Optometrist of the Year" for the years 1981-1982. He practiced Optometry for 50 years, the first two-thirds in private practice and the last 16 years at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin.
Porter also contributed a great deal back to his community. He was recognized as "Citizen of the Year" in 1967 by the Dublin Civitan Club. He served as Mayor for the City of Dublin from 1970 to 1973. He also served as president of the Dublin-Laurens County Chamber of Commerce for 1975-76 and for the term of 1976-77. In 1974, Porter was inducted into the Order of Golden Shamrock for his service to his community by the City of Dublin. He was named Honorary Leprechaun by the Order of the Shillelagh in 2009. He was also a scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 66 in Dublin and a lifelong supporter of the scouting program.
Porter loved fishing, hunting, and playing on the Oconee River. He passed that love of the outdoors and nature on to his children and grandchildren. He was a member of Dublin First United Methodist Church.
Due to COVID-19, there will be a private memorial service held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Laurens County Library, the Music Ministry at Dublin First United Methodist Church, or the charity of one's choice.
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