Profiles from the Archives: William S. McKimmon

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

William Simpson McKimmon was born on November 9, 1894, in Raleigh, N.C., to Charles M. and Jane Simpson McKimmon. Charles McKimmon was a U.S. Civil War veteran who served in the 1st Regiment, North Carolina Artillery, which later became Company A, 10th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry. By 1900, the McKimmon family was living on North Blount Street, and Charles McKimmon was working as a merchant.


William McKimmon attended Raleigh High School for three years. He would attend college for his freshman year in 1912-1913 at the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (now North Carolina State University) in Raleigh, where he studied civil engineering for three years. McKimmon spent three years in various civil engineering field work. He would then work for two years as an assistant (and listed by 1918 as a bacteriologist) at the North Carolina State Laboratory of Hygiene in Raleigh. 

William McKimmon enlisted for military service in World War I on October 6, 1917, in the U.S. Army Signal Corps Air Section in Greensboro, N.C. He actually signed up through the Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC). McKimmon was sent for eight weeks of training at the School of Military Aeronautics in Atlanta, Georgia, where he graduated on December 15, 1917. McKimmon was discharged from the ERC on March 28, 1918, in order to accept a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ Air Section on March 29, 1918. McKimmon was sent for flying instruction on a Curtiss airplane at Park Field in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was serving in a Headquarters Detachment in the Air Section. He would next spend four weeks drill instruction at Camp Dick in Dallas, Texas.


On May 19, 1918, McKimmon left from the U.S. aboard a troop transport ship for Europe. He went for two and a half months for aircraft machine gun and flying training at Issoudun, France, finishing his training on August 21, 1918. McKimmon next spent nine days studying aerial gunnery at Cazaux, France, beginning on September 28, 1918. He finished his studing at Cazaux on September 3, 1918. McKimmon was assigned to serve in France in the 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, U.S. Army Air Service (a reformed version of the Air Section, U.S. Army Signal Corps), at Rembercourt, France, on September 9, 1918. He was involved in his unit’s work on the St. Mihiel-Verdun front in September 1918 in what McKimmon refers to as the “Amex drive.”

McKimmon conducted air patrols and aerial photography missions along the St-Mihiel, Verdun, and Argonne Forest in September 1918. He would also fly into Germany on a 90-minute photography mission on September 20, 1918. On October 5, 1918, McKimmon was slightly injured at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. After the Armistice in November 1918 at some point, McKimmon was assigned to Casual Company 1969. He arrived back in the U.S. from France on a troop transport ship on March 26, 1919, and assigned to Camp Albert L. Mills on Long Island, New York (one of the main U.S. military embarkation ports on the Atlantic coast). McKimmon was transferred to Mitchel Field at Hempstead Plains on Long Island, New York. It is believed he was honorably discharged at Mitchel Field from active military service on April 22, 1919.

After the war, it is unknown where he lived and what he was doing for work (though it is believed he returned to Raleigh, N.C.). William McKimmon would marry Kathrine L. Crews on January 12, 1921, in Wake County, N.C. By 1930, the McKimmons were living in Raleigh, and William was working as a broker for the Brotherhood Accident Company. The company insured members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternal organization only. By 1934, McKimmon was working as a clerk.


By 1936 at the height of the Great Depression, William McKimmon was working for the North Carolina State Board of Health’s Division of Sanitary Engineering. By 1939, he was working as a sanitary engineer with the North Carolina State Board of Health. By 1940, the McKimmons had moved in with Kathrine’s mother in her Raleigh house. McKimmon continued working through the 1940s as a sanitary engineer with the State Board of Health, where he would retire from later in life. William S. McKimmon died on September 30, 1967, in Durham, N.C., and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in the same city.


To learn more about William McKimmon’s WWI service, check out the William S. McKimmon Papers (WWI 126) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., and explore the attached collection finding aid for the extent of his materials.


This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.


Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.

Associated Files