Lt. Colonel Grady Howell Tumlin, U.S. Army, (Ret.) 94, of Alexandria, VA died peacefully with his closest family members at his side on May 29, 2019. Grady was born in Atlanta, GA on June 29, 1924 to Robert Newton and Ida Mae (Burns) Tumlin. A career U.S. Third Army officer, he was a proud veteran of Korea, World War II and Viet Nam.
When Grady volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1944, little did he know that decision would lead to a career in the military that would span the globe for more than 37 years. He proudly served in the Burma-China theater in World War II, Korea, and then went back to Germany where he commanded a tank company in West Germany. At the personal request of the Patton family, he laid a wreath on General George Patton’s grave for the 1960 dedication of the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. His skill as a tank commander led to his appointment to a faculty position and eventual head of the Leadership Department at the U.S. Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. He was then selected to attend the prestigious Army Command and Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS.
In 1965 he served in Viet Nam as Advisor to the Commanding General of the Vietnamese Command and General Staff College in Dalat. Upon return to the U.S. he was assigned as Chief of the Army’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Ft. McPherson, GA. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his leadership there in directing the Army’s assistance to local communities nationwide in the turbulent aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
He served at the Headquarters of the Department of the Army at the Pentagon as Executive Assistant to General William Peers, who was newly appointed by the Army to investigate the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. Then he served as Aide-de-Camp to the U.S. Representative to the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), Lt. General Harris Hollis in Ankara, Turkey. He and his wife, Betty came to love Turkey and the rugs and collectibles they purchased in their extensive travels in Iran, Pakistan and Europe filled their home.
Grady loved life in the Army and was humbled by the opportunities it provided a young boy who grew up in poverty in the North Georgia mountains. From his gratitude grew a devotion to the young men and women serving under his command, whom he treated as a demanding but benevolent father would. He saw the good in everyone and never gave up on those who struggled to see it in themselves.
For that reason, Grady’s final assignment at Ft. McNair working with Commanding General Robert Yerks was his most personally gratifying. He and General Yerks established programs and protocols to assist young junior enlisted personnel struggling to live and support growing families in high rent Washington D.C. They established subsidies for housing, obtained grants and loans for those experiencing family emergencies and established food banks and child care for Army families in need.
Over his career, Grady was awarded 17 medals including the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. But, of all the accolades bestowed on him, Grady was most proud of a line in a personal note he received from General Yerks that read in part, “...I have not met a more genuine human being than Grady Tumlin.”
To his children and his grandchildren, he was a true American hero. He embodied love for his country and considered the selfless service he provided to be its highest calling. He will be remembered for his boundless energy, his fun-loving good nature, being the life of every party (even a party of two), the most knowledgable tour guide in Washington, D.C., (when he took his children on mandatory tours of the Pentagon, he recited every detail including how many light bulbs the building used). He was relentless with corny jokes and artfully dodged the groans of his children and grandchildren whenever he started in on on a well worn war story or “life in the Georgia mountains” story. He is smiling down, knowing now they would give anything to hear them all one more time. He loved animals and considered it a personal mission to keep the raccoons and foxes that called his back deck home, fed on cold winter days.
He is survived by his daughter, Celeste (Tumlin) Brown and her husband Rick of Maitland, FL; 2 sons, Grady Tumlin, Jr. of Santa Barbara, CA, and Timothy Tumlin of Darien, IL; a step-son Barry Van Caudill and his wife Eleanor of Whitesburg, KY; five adoring grandchildren, Ryan (Christine) Brown, Ansley (Matt) Brown, Alyssa Brown, Brandee Caudill and Leslie Caudill; and three great grandchildren, Zachary and Molly Caudill and Sloane Brown.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Betty Sue (Rash) Tumlin; his former wife, Jacqueline (Lambert) Tumlin; his parents; 2 brothers, Robert Lee Oran Tumlin and Earnest Odell Tumlin; and a sister Maisie (Burns) Waters.
A military funeral with full honors and burial in Arlington National Cemetery will be held for Grady on Friday, October 25, 2019 beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the Old Post Chapel at Ft. Myer in Arlington, VA. Those wishing to attend are asked to enter through Ft. Myer’s Hatfield Gate, 101 Carpenter Road, Arlington, VA and to allow 30 minutes for gate entrance.
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