The story of Hugh Minor Sr. has been well told. He was the Dawson County native and pioneer airplane pilot who lived much of his early life in Gainesville.
He operated a flying service at the Gainesville airport while it wasn’t much more than a landing strip in a cow pasture. Sundays, people would line up to pay for a thrill ride in one of his planes. He taught Lee Gilmer to fly. Gilmer later would operate the airport, upgraded by the military during World War II, and it would be named in his honor.
Hugh Minor’s grandson, Ron, is a 1972 graduate of North Hall High School and Air Force veteran who now lives in Las Vegas, was fascinated by his grandfather’s experiences. He also was intrigued by the parallels in the lives of Hugh Minor Sr. and his great-great-great-grandfather, Daniel Miner (spelled with an “e” at the time), who fought in the Civil War. Ron did extensive research to piece together their backgrounds in a book he wrote and illustrated.
Hugh Minor Sr. went only as far as the ninth grade in school and lied about his age in 1921 to join the Army Air Corps. Returning to Gainesville, he opened an automobile garage at the intersection of what is now Industrial Boulevard and Atlanta Highway. His interest in flight took him to Coffeyville, Kan., where he bought into an airport and flying service.
Hugh later joined Pan American Air Ferries in Miami, Fla., a company the military took over when World War II started. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant to help ferry planes to war zones. His first assignment in January 1943 was co-pilot on a B-17 headed to Africa.
The flight was successful, but the B-24 he and 26 others were returning in had to crash-land in the ocean. Eleven people escaped in two life rafts, but all died before rescuers could reach them. The life rafts, remains of two people and personal effects of others later were found, but no evidence that Hugh Minor had been aboard them.
The Minor family, however, always believed Hugh had been aboard a life raft, but the official report of the accident that Ron secured for his book indicated he apparently went down with the plane.
The other part of the story is Hugh’s great-grandfather, Daniel Miner. Born in 1823 in Gwinnett County, he worked on the family farm and married Harriet Landers in 1849. They had six children by the time he joined the Confederate 36th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Aug. 23, 1863.
Mostly through letters back and forth between soldiers and their families, Ron Minor followed the 36th through its Civil War trials and triumphs. The book tells the story of the severe hardships the Confederates faced, scrounging for food, marching through ankle-deep mud for hours, sometimes days, and sleeping on cold, rain-soaked ground.
Sickness among the troops was rampant and caused many of the deaths both sides suffered, two out of three among Confederates.
Daniel was with Gen. James Longstreet as the Confederates tried to drive Union soldiers out of Tennessee. He was sent to a field hospital near Sweetwater, Tenn., when his cold worsened. Too ill to travel, he was left behind as the 36th Regiment marched 10 hours during the night 15 miles to Loudon, Tenn.
Daniel succumbed to pneumonia Nov. 9, 1863. Many of his friends and relatives also died of disease or in battle.
In his book, Ron Minor points to parallels in the lives of his grandfather and great-great-great-grandfather. Daniel Miner enlisted in the Confederate Army; Hugh Minor Sr. enlisted in the Army Air Force.
Barely three months after enlisting, Daniel died of pneumonia in Tennessee. Only a few months after qualifying as a pilot in the Air Force, Hugh Minor died on his first mission after transporting a plane to Africa.
Daniel died at age 40; Hugh was 38 when he died. Daniel’s body was lost as many of the Confederate dead were buried in unmarked graves. Hugh’s body was lost at sea.
Daniel’s wife was 31 years old when he died; she never remarried. Hugh’s wife was 32 when he died; she never remarried.
Daniel and his wife had a daughter and five sons; Hugh and his wife had a daughter and three sons.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.