DAR honors Pat Higdon with the National DAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award

Monday, February 19, 2024
Key Corner Chapter Regent Laura McCulloch and First Vice Regent Betty Warren present Pat Higdon with the prestigious DAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award.
State Gazette photo/ submitted

Special to the State Gazette

On the Opening night of the Key Corner DAR Chapter’s current America 250! Exhibit “A Presidential Stroll,” Pat Higdon was presented with the National DAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award. The award is designed to recognize worthy local individuals and groups for outstanding achievements in all areas of historic preservation and the recipient is expected to have contributed to their community in an outstanding volunteer manner.

In presenting the award, Chapter First Vice Regent Betty Warren shared that Higdon has been a driving force for historic preservation since she moved to Halls, TN, in 1977-- first as a concerned citizen attending all town board meetings, secondly, as the choir director at First Methodist and mayor for four years, and, lastly, as a history teacher at Halls High School for over 25 years.

“Her passion for creating and celebrating the past manifests itself in all her activities,” explained Warren.

The story begins with a sandy-haired four-year-old who did not understand the complexities of war but was mesmerized by the large planes circling through the air over her family’s farm in Unionville, just far enough from the Dyersburg Army Air Force Base to be a perfect practice field for B-17 pilots training before they are sent to Europe. Pat Higdon probably never saw any of these pilots in Dyersburg or Halls, but this memory made a lasting impression and the reason she was being nominated for the DAR Historical Preservation Award.

In 1986, Higdon was asked to spearhead Halls’ Homecoming ’86 Celebration, a part of the bicentennial. The plan was to hold the first reunion of the WWII pilots who were trained at the Dyersburg Army Air Base, one of the largest B-17 Training Bases in the US which was located in Halls, TN. Over 7,700 pilots trained in Halls between 1942-1945 and many say it was some of their best memories of the war.

Many returned for the reunion and as Higdon listened to the stories of the soldiers and their families, she was fascinated, sparking a passion to develop a facsimile of the original base. Although she was the history teacher at the high school during the day, she spent her weekends and after-school hours planning the historic preservation of the army base.

Higdon’s first plans involved multiple sections- barracks, military vehicles, household furniture and décor, military uniforms, tactical equipment, a chapel, and a reception hall. In addition, she began to contact anyone close to the base for memorabilia, and funding for all has been built through private donations and grants and she has spent countless hours on this important part of the project.

In 1992 the Dyersburg Army Air Base (DAAB) facsimile opened as the Veteran’s Museum on the site of the original base. Filled with amazing bits of history from former crewmen and WWII enthusiasts, the Museum exceeded all expectations of all who visited. From the beginning, Higdon had volunteer docents, plus herself, conduct tours of the building and even kept the museum open on Sunday afternoons. The Museum has sponsored multiple Air Shows with B-17s and other period airplanes for over 30,000 spectators each time and has held a continual program of activities for children and adults.

“The volume, the depth, and the breadth of her volunteer work in and for your community are outstanding! She touches the hearts and minds of the residents of the Dyersburg area in many ways, and she truly deserves this award” added Barbara Chesney, NSDAR National Vice Chair, Historic Preservation Recognition Award.

Promoting historic preservation, education, and patriotism is the mission of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Their current exhibit, which hits all three aspects is free and open to the public through February 29 at the Dyersburg State Community College Learning Resource Center. The exhibit focuses on the Founding Fathers through the current administration of the Executive Branch of the government.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: