”Honor the Past; Deserve the Present“

Coleman F. Driver

(November 25, 1895-September 1, 1980)
Adult height 5'8"; 140 lbs.; brown hair; brown eyes

Captain, Army, WWI Siberian Campaign, 1918-1920

Contributor:  Rachel White


Background

  • Son of William Driver (who died of pneumonia when Coleman was four years of age and his sister Sally was two years of age) and Charlotte Ferrell of Montgomery, Alabama
  • Coleman F. Driver was the father of Charlaine Driver Carter of Monterey, California
  • Coleman Ferrell Driver's wife Grace (Charlaine's mother) is still alive (age 94)
  • Coleman was born in Montgomery, Alabama, November 25, 1895
  • The Ferrells (the family of Coleman's mother) were part of upper society and owned a famous estate near Atlanta that is today a park and open to the public
    • Note—In the 1840s Sarah Coleman Ferrell, wife of Judge Blount Ferrell, planted the estate's gardens, which became famous in the late 1800s as Ferrell's Gardens. Following the couple's deaths in the early 1900s, the estate's new owners razed the old home and built a mansion to replace it. The mansion was named the Hills and Dales Estate. It and Ferrell's Gardens are today open to the public.
    • Note—Blount and Sarah Coleman's daughter Charlotte married William Driver; they were the parents of Coleman Ferrell Driver
  • William Driver died when Coleman was four years of age; Coleman later lived with his mother Charlotte and sister Sarah in New York City (Manhattan). Mother ran an upscale boarding house for affluent southerners who visited New York to attend, for example, opera and theater performances
  • In NYC Coleman worked as a newspaper delivery boy
  • His uncle sent him to a military school in New Orleans, LA, from which he graduated at about thirteen years of age
  • He majored in pre-med at Auburn University, graduating c1913
    • Note—at Auburn he was, c1910, a charter member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 10 May 2009]
  • He graduated from Auburn at age 16 (1911) and then enrolled in graduate school at Georgia Tech, taking engineering courses. [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 22 June 2009]

Army

  • He did not complete his graduate studies at Georgia Tech, choosing to enlist in the Army (as a lieutenant) because the U. S. had entered WWI.
    • Note—Neither Driver's wife nor daughter knows the enlistment date [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 22 June 2009]
  • Training at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, May 11-August 14, 1917
  • While resident of Chicago Heights, Illinois, Coleman was on August 14, 1917, at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, discharged, due to expiration of service, from Company 2 of the 11th Provisional Training Regiment [U. S. Army discharge document, 14 August 1917]

Siberian Campaign

  • In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson sent about 1600 men of the 27th Infantry Division to Siberia. Their mission was to (1) protect the Siberian Railway, which was carrying weapons and food for the pro-czar Whites and the Japanese who were fighting the Reds and (2) help Czech Legionnaire soldiers to escape through Vladivostok. [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 4 January 2009]
  • Driver was twenty-three years of age when he was sent to Vladivostok as lieutenant, 31st Infantry, A.E.F., Siberia—to protect the Siberian Railroad; perhaps to help get royal family members out of Russia (some royal family members did, in fact, escape to Chicago; some made it to Shanghai)
  • Driver arrived at Vladivostok sick with the flu, that by then had become a world-wide pandemic.
    • Note—Driver recovered from his illness on board the ship that had taken him to Valdivostok; many of his fellow soldiers did not survive their illness.
  • In Vladivostok Driver was in command of a platoon of Company M, 31st Infantry, stationed a few miles from the rest of his company most of the time.
    • Note—his commander noted without explanation, that in Siberia Driver "had a peculiar and a rather difficult situation to handle most of the time which he did satisfactorily and conscientiously." [Capt. Roy F. Lynd, letter "To Whom It May Concern" at 53rd Infantry, Camp Grant, Illinois, 21 February 1920]
    • Note—A purpose of the American landing at Vladivostok may have been to rescue members of the Romanoff family. Captain Coleman's daughter recalls that her father "told all of us that he went to Siberia to 'get the Czar's family out of Russia.' My mom used to say this also." Though her mother did not know who in the Romanoff family escaped, "I remember that my mom also said that he was successful getting some of the family out by train. . . ." Coleman's daughter concludes that this may have been the "rather difficult situation" to which Coleman's commander referred. [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 29 June 2009]
    • Coleman Driver's daughter believes that he was also in charge of guarding mines [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 5 June 2009]
  • Driver received a gold WWI Victory Medal with a bar at the top of the ribbon reading "Siberia." [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 4 January 2009]

Shanghai

  • After Siberia, he stayed for a time in Shanghai; was a member of the French Club there; played polo; (and was a concert pianist)
    • Driver's daughter notes that many of the Czar's relatives made their way to Shanghai and for unknown reasons, "that may be the reason Coleman ended up in Shanghai for a short time." [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 29 June 2009]
    • Note—Coleman Driver's daughter recollects that her father would play only on a Steinway piano. [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 27 June 2009]

Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1921 (?)-1925—started and was the principal instructor for McKinley High School's ROTC program and school band; he also led the campaign to build the school's George Fred Wright swimming pool [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 8 May 2009]
    • Note—the pool, completed in 1931, was named in honor of Honolulu's mayor. Coleman Driver's friend, the famous Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, was given the ceremonial honor of being the first person to swim in the pool.
    • Note—Kahanamoku had attended McKinley High School and had won gold medals in swimming in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics
    • Note—Kahanamoku is known as the "Father of Surfing"
    • Note—Driver also taught ROTC classes at the Punahou School in Honolulu
  • While stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii Captain Driver completed a course of instruction at the Department School of Arms, Schofield Barracks, and received certification as "proficient" in the use of the Stokes Trench Mortar and the 37Millimeter Gun [Department School of Arms certificate, 30 July 1921]
  • While stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii Driver played polo at Hickam Field with the Dillinghams and other prominent Oahu developers [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 2 June 2009]
    • Note—The Army provided polo ponies for the officers [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 2 June 2009]

Fort Hancock, New Jersey

  • By late August 1926 Captain Driver was Commanding Officer, Headquarters and Service Battery, 7th Coast Artillery, at Fort Hancock, NJ [Napoleon Boudreau, letter to Captain Coleman F. Driver, 24 August 1926]

Tokyo, Japan

  • In 1927 Captain Driver was sent to Tokyo, Japan, to serve as language officer (translating Japanese), attached to the U. S. Embassy [Diplomatic Passport, 9 April 1927]
    • Note—On at least one occasion Captain Driver had tea with the Emperor of Japan. The family still has the gold embossed invitation [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 8 June 2009]
    • Note—Driver had studied alongside young Japanese children in their classrooms and then attended language school in Japan to become fluent in Japanese. [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 27 June 2009]
    • Note—During WWII Driver wanted to enlist as a Japanese interpreter, but, as his daughter notes, "the Army refused to take him and he was very upset about this." Japanese Americans served as interpreters. [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 5 June 2009]

Retirement from Army

  • Retired from Army in 1929 or 1930—medical discharge due to bad ears because of swimming—he swam for Army

Marriage

  • Married in his late 40s to Grace Herring (born in 1915), from Macon, GA; she was about twenty years younger than he
    • Note—Coleman met Grace in Jacksonville, Florida, with her sisters; all were at a house party
    • Their daughter Charlaine Driver was born at Ft. McPhearson Army base in Atlanta, Georgia

Pharmacist and Chicken Rancher

  • Coleman had enough medical hours in his undergraduate studies at Auburn and graduate studies at Georgia Tech to take the Georgia and Florida pharmacy exams; he passed both in 1940
    • Note—He also had a nursery (his daughter recalls that "he loved to garden") and a chicken ranch in Bogart, Georgia. He wanted to supply chickens to southwestern U. S. cafeterias, but all of his chickens (he had thousands) died from a bird disease. The family was financially devastated, losing even their house [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 27 June 2009]
  • He later became a pharmacist in Arlington, Virginia; when the family moved to Atwater, California, Coleman passed the California pharmacy examination (c1944)
    • Note—Coleman Driver enjoyed playing tennis at Griffith Park, where his daughter Charlaine learned to play; Charlaine later became a nationally-ranked tennis player
  • In c1949 the family moved to Oroville, CA, where he was a pharmacist and, as Coleman's daughter remembers, "we owned an olive ranch, cows, and more chickens." [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 5 June 2009]
  • In c1953 the family moved to Apple Valley, CA, where Coleman started the Apple Valley Drug Store; he next ran a pharmacy in Victorville
  • Coleman and Grace later retired in Fallbrook, California, on a small avocado ranch

Death

  • While playing bridge, a game which, according to his daughter, "he loved dearly," Coleman Driver died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 1, 1980, about three months shy of his eighty-fifth birthday [Charlaine Driver Carter, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 27 June 2009]
(rev.2.11.10)