Campus Events, Campus wide

WWII vet and founding trustee brings Veterans Day message

By Jan Joslin | November 18, 2019

Charleston Southern students lined up to thank Dr. William L. “Bill” Palmer for his service in World War II and to share stories of grandparents and great-grandparents with him after Palmer delivered a Veterans Day message Nov. 11.

Palmer was a staff sergeant in the U.S. 8th Army Air Force, 381st Heavy Bombardment Group which flew B-17s out of Ridgewell, Essex, England. After he was drafted, he went through training and was on his way to England 90 days later. He went by train to New York where he boarded the Queen Elizabeth. “Sounds good, right?” he said. The ship had so many troops on board that he was assigned an eight hour shift in a bed that was occupied when he wasn’t in it.

Dr. Bill Palmer, 98-year-old World War II vet shares Veterans Day message at Charleston Southern
Dr. Bill Palmer speaks at CSU’s Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 11. Photo by Richard Esposito

“I belonged to a group that lost half of our B17s in the war,” said Palmer. At 98-years-old, Palmer said he is one of the few left around from WWII. “A lot of time has passed, but I am young at heart.” Describing himself as ancient and an antique, he said he likes to have fun, pulling up his pant leg to reveal his “happy socks,” colorful polka dotted ones. 

While in England, Palmer rode his bike eight miles to a revival. He doesn’t remember who the preacher was but remembers the preacher saying if Jesus is the Christ and He loves me, then no sacrifice will be too great. On his eight mile ride back to the base in the blacked out countryside, Palmer said, “Oh God, I do believe.” 

He committed to the ministry and decided he needed to be as sharp as he possibly could if he was to serve the Lord. He married Ellen, his wife of 73 years, and said, “That was a good decision.” He earned four degrees including his doctorate and taught New Testament Greek in college and seminary while serving as a pastor. Palmer went on to pastor several churches in South Carolina and other states and was headmaster at a private school in Tennessee when he retired at the age of 85.

He was pastor of Dorchester-Waylyn Baptist Church (now Doorway Baptist Church) from 1957-1961. It was during that time that he met with Dr. John Hamrick and Rev. Chester Russell about the need for a Baptist college in the lower part of the state. Palmer served on the founding Board of Trustees elected in 1964 at Baptist College at Charleston (now CSU). He said in their wildest dreams the founding group never envisioned what CSU is today.

The Palmers live in Tennessee and have three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His son, Dr. David Palmer, dean of CSU’s College of Business, introduced him.

Palmer said he wanted to leave students with one message: “You are accountable to God Almighty in this world.”

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