Friday, April 11, 2008

Something in the Water

This is an old picture of John H. Luedecke. John was one of the pioneers in the county where I grew up. I never knew him, because he died long before I came along. He was born in the 1880's.

As one of the first residents in the area, he started out on an un-improved, rented farm. It must have been a very hard life having to try and clear land, and scratch out a living in West Texas in the early 1900's.

Through hard work, and determination, John and Lizzie were able to buy their own ranch in 1923; 240 acres. (This ranch was right down the road from the one I grew up on). John guided the family through the great depression, years when hail destroyed the crops, and years when drought made life tough. In 1926 his daughter got her arm caught in an old washing machine. There was no doctor around, so John had to do surgery on the arm himself, removing the infection that had developed. Later when they found a doctor, the doctor commented that he could not have done a better job on the arm himself. They, and their children worked hard to improve the land. Their son, Alvin, built the windmill. Water was the lifeblood of any farm or ranch, so completing the windmill must have been a great day for this family. The family worked all day, but at night would lay out on a pallet together, and watch the stars. John's daughter remembered those times, and commented that the stars looked so close that you could almost reach out and touch them. She also remembered finding comfort in that windmill her brother built. The sound of the windmill was the sound of life to her. The windmill provided water for the stock and the family.

John died on June 21, 1944 from a heart attack while working on his farm.

So whatever happened to little Alvin, who helped clear the land, and build the windmill? Well, he grew up to be Major General Alvin R. Luedecke. He had important positions in World War II, and after the war was the Chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. Did I mention that in his spare time he did a stint as President of Texas A&M University? There must have been something real special about the water coming out of that windmill, or maybe it was that time spent watching the stars with his family.

Sometimes I get tired of all the whining I hear. No one could have started with more humble beginnings, and less opportunity, yet no one could have accomplished more or contributed better than Alvin Luedecke. Our life, and our future is what we make of it. What we achieve is not about what other people allow us to accomplish, but what we decide to accomplish. Believing that others determine our success surrenders almost any hope of ever accomplishing anything.

Could John have ever dreamed that his son would accomplish all that he did? You betcha, and that is probably why he worked so hard. So today, we tip our Stetsons to John H. and his son Alvin R., two great Americans, and two real men. It would be hard to say who was the greater hero . . . the son who made such great contributions to his country, or the father who raised him.

Major General Alvin Luedecke died on August 9, 1998 in San Antonio.

General Alvin Luedecke with First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson at White House Reception in 1963

Dinner Invitation from Chiang Kai Shek, president of China, to General A. R. Luedecke


  1. Paul,

    Thank you for the wonderful tribute to the two greatest men in my life: my grandfather and my father. You are correct that they were great men in their own time and saw some extremely hard times. There is another story I will share. When Dad was a young boy of 8, John took the cattle to the Davis Mountans so they could survive on the grass there. The early drouth around 1918-20 had scorched the local fields. With John gone, Dad to tend to the farm and the family. He did it all and brought in a crop.

    Dad actually "retired" three times. First, of course,was the Air Force. President Eisenhower had asked Dad to retire early so he could take over as the general manager of the Atomic Energy Commission. After Five years there in difficult management/political situations.he moved on. Trying to sell peaceful uses of the atom was particularly tough when all the public knew was that "atomic" could only mean atomic bombs.

    He left the AEC and went as Deputy Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California where he was the driving force on the Voyager Series of satellites.

    In the late 60's, he went back to Texas A&M as an Associate Dean of Engineering and began the largest building program in A&M history. Upon the death of the school President, General Earl Rudder (another great man from Brady). Dad took over as Interim President because he felt that the students were anxious to have another (read non-military) type of president.

    When the new president was found, Dad finally retired, but did not quit working. In your Schleicher County picture an while back, I described some of his life after he left A&M

    Thanks again for the pictures and kind words. He would be extremely pleased as would my mother, Gussie Lee Luedecke, who stood beside him through out his stellar life. Don't seem to many like these guys around any more. We had better find some in view of the times that are surely coming.

    I would like to talk to you one day if you are willing.

  2. littlepadre,
    Thanks for the comments, and greater insights.

    I am sorry to "out" you in such a public forum, but I noticed in your earlier posts, you were speaking in half sentences. You mentioned that your Dad was in the Air Force. . . you did not mention he was in Charge of the Air Force, or at least important parts of it. You mentioned that he was "At" Texas A&M, not that he was interim President of A&M. You mentioned he had "Interesting Jobs", not that he was general manager of the AEC, or got personal invitations to dine with the President of China, or attend white house receptions. So, I thought I would do a little research, and post some of your family's contributions to the country. You mentioned that your dad periodically visited Schleicher Country, but you did not mention it was to attend "General Alvin Luedecke Day" there (In addition tovisiting his family).

    In my life I have had the opportunity to work with some "great men", and then some "truly great men." The thing that I noticed as the big difference the "Great" and the "Truly Great" is that the "Truly Great" men always had a sence of humility. Maybe some of your father's "True Greatness" rubbed off on you.

    Thanks for your posts, and contributions to this blog. Also, thanks for the sacrifices and contributions made by your family to this country.

  3. Thanks for all the inspiring stories.

  4. when I die, could you write my obit?
    By golly, you are good!

  5. Anon,
    Thanks for the kind words. Happy to oblige you, but hopefully that will be a long time in the future. Thanks for your post.

  6. Hey there,
    Here's an incoming for y'all from Washington state (not to mention a year or so late on the draw to this post!) I never got to meet the former General (my second cousin) but I did hear some family stories while growing up in the Luedecke clan. Alvin's daddy John was my grandmother Eva's brother. Thanks for a lovely write-up on "ARL" and posting that awesome pic of my great uncle John. And "LittlePadre" my name is Debra [Debi] Benson, daughter of Eva's son August. I'm thinkin' that makes us third cousins. Maybe I can get out to one of the Luedecke reunions in the near future; Rosemarie Myers and I have met one another via the internet and things took off from there. She's done an amazing job on the family history! God bless and take care.


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