Tag Archives: Waco Tornado

William Henry Lytle, Jr. – Son of Lucinda Curbow and William Henry Lytle

Lucinda and William had one son – William Henry Lytle, Jr. – who was born in Waco, McLennan County, Texas on 3 Nov 1887.  William married Margarette Logan about 1921 – they had no children.  His occupation varied from clerk to driver in his younger years to a machinist for the Katy Railroad Shop later. 

William Henry Lytle was a World War I veteran (Ord Sgt III MBL Ord Repair Shop).  On his draft registration card William describes himself as tall and slender with grey eyes and light hair. 

William Henry Lytle – World War I Draft Registration Card

His wife, Marguerite, died of cancer in 1941, and it does not appear that he remarried. 

On the afternoon of May 11, 1953, Waco, Texas was struck by a F5 tornado.  William perished in that storm when the building he had taken shelter in collapsed on top of him.  He is laid to rest with his family in the Lytle family plot in Greenwood Cemetery (formerly known as East Waco Cemetery). 

William Henry Lytle, Jr. - Greenwood Cemetery, Waco, McLennan County, Texas

THE WACO NEWS-TRIBUNE (City Edition, Part 4/Tornado Obits) and WACO TIMES HERALD (Page 17); Wednesday, May 13, 1953:  William Henry Lytle, 64, OF 2915 Windsor (located west of IH-35 and east of Waco Lake in the Dean Highlands area of Waco), died Monday afternoon in the tornado.  Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday at Comptom’s Chapel, Chaplin Harris of Veteran’s Hospital officiating, assisted by Dr. D. L. McCree, burial in Oakwood Cemetery. Survivors: one sister, Miss Bell Lytle of Waco; one-step daughter, Mrs. Marvin Booker, Sr. of Fort Worth, one step-grandchild, Marvin Booker, Jr.  Active pallbearers – E. H. Bergner, Mr. Pueblo, Tom Conway, Marvin Booker, Sr., Marvin Booker, Jr., R. B. Marshall.   Mr. Lytle was born in Waco and lived here all his life. He was a retired machinist. Employee of Kathy Shops, Bellmead. Compton’s Funeral Home, 1024 Austin, Phone 4-1441.

William Lytle’s wife, Marguerite, had been married one time before her marriage to William.  This marriage produced a daughter named Irene Margaret Smith.  This young lady married Marvin Matha Booker.  The step-grandchild mentioned in William Lytle’s obituary is Marvin Matha Booker, Jr.  Mr. Booker was born in 1928 and is presently 82 years old.  I was lucky enough to visit with him in the summer of 2010 about his step-grandfather – William Henry Lytle – and this is what he shared with me:

I called my step-Grandfather “Big Daddy” and Grandmother “Big Mother.”  Most of the years that we visited them at their farm in Waco, I was very young, and had little interest in family history – I preferred playing outside.  During World War II, we were allowed three gallons of gas a week, so we didn’t travel much.  I do not remember Big Daddy ever speaking of his family or his life as a youth at his home. 

Regarding Big Daddy’s military service – He was a Sergeant in the 36th Division Texas National Guard before the U. S. entered WWI.  Due to the strong German influence in Mexico prior to our entering the war, the Texas Guard was activated and sent to the Mexico border to stop any invasion of United States soil.  I believe the troops were on the border about a year.  He often spoke about the Mexican military, probably influenced by the Germans, firing on our troops.  He said when they received fire from the Mexicans; they would expend rounds into the Mexican lines usually causing casualties.  He always spoke of the border time as an enjoyable period.  Regarding World War I – He talked about the Mexican border expedition more than his combat experiences in Europe.  He spoke a number of times about how the artillery would use the church steeples in French villages as aiming stakes for firing missions.  He also commented about the poverty and destruction in France.  He never spoke about actual combat.

 Big Daddy loved to hunt and he would let me tag along as long as I followed instructions and stayed close.  The only times he ever talked about the border expedition and Europe was out hunting, never around the house.  He left his shotgun to me when he was killed.  I do not know where or when Big Daddy and Big Mother were married.  I can’t remember Big Mother’s funeral, but her battle with cancer was somewhat long and very bad.    

Regarding the tornado – Big Daddy went into downtown Waco most afternoons to play 42 with other retired Katy Railroad people that worked at the Bellmead shops.  During their last game the sky turned black so they decided to leave early and go home.  One of the other men and Big Daddy started walking to their cars and it started raining.  The other man kept walking, but Big Daddy entered the six-story R. T. Dennis Furniture Store to wait out the storm.  This building took a direct hit from the tornado and caused all of the floors to come straight down.  Twenty-two people died in the Dennis building including Big Daddy.”  (News reports indicate 30 people.)

R. T. Dennis Furniture Store – destroyed in Waco Tornado

The Waco tornado remains tied with the 1902 Goliad tornado as the deadliest in Texas history and the tenth-deadliest in US history. No deadlier single tornado has struck the United States since then, making it the worst storm of the last 75 years. The tornado killed 114 people and caused 597 injuries and up to $41.2 million in property damage.  Over half the dead – 61 – were in a single city block bounded by 4th and 5th Streets and Austin and Franklin Avenues.  The Waco tornado struck at 4:36 p.m. The tornado, over two blocks wide, hit the downtown area. Many people on the streets crowded into local businesses for shelter. However, few of the buildings were constructed sturdily enough to withstand the winds, and they collapsed almost immediately. The best-known example was the six-story R.T. Dennis furniture store, which crumbled to the ground and killed 30 people inside.  Newer buildings with steel reinforcement, including the 22-story Amicable office building (now called the ALICO Building) just across the street, weathered the storm.  William Henry Lytle’s name appears on the Waco Tornado Memorial. 

Waco Tornado Memorial

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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Lytle


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