Ceremony Honoring Marine General, UT Grad Set

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee graduate who served as Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps will be commemorated here April 28.

An historical marker memorializing the late Gen. Clifton Bledsoe Cates will be unveiled at 2 p.m. at Cumberland Avenue and James Agee Street, formerly 15th Street. The public is invited.

Gen. Cates, who was born near Tiptonville in 1893, was a 1916 graduate of the UT College of Law. He lettered in football and baseball at UT.

He was one of a few officers in any branch of service to have commanded a platoon, company, battalion, regiment and a division under fire. Gen. Cates entered the Corps in 1917 and saw duty in both world wars.

At Guadalcanal in World War II, Gen. Cates commanded the First Marine Division, and he later led the Fourth Division in the capture of Tinian and Iwo Jima. He earned a Distinguished Service Medal at Tinian and a Gold Star, in lieu of the second service medal, at Iwo Jima.

The Iwo Jima citation says, “Repeatedly disregarding his own personal safety, (the then) Major Gen. Cates traversed his own front lines daily to rally his tired, depleted unit by his undaunted valor.” In his 37-year career, he won some 30 decorations.

Gen. Cates retired in 1954 after serving two years as commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Va. He died in 1970 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Marine Gen. Ray Davis (retired), who won the Medal of Honor, will deliver the principal address at the unveiling ceremony.

The Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for heroism, was presented for gallantry in the Korean War. Gen. Davis is co-chairman of the U.S.-Korean Foundation.

Also participating in the ceremony will be retired Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Tiebout of Townsend and retired Col. Otto Melsa, chairman of the Gen. Clifton Cates Memorial Fund Committee.

Dr. Bruce Wheeler, UT professor and acting head of the history department, will be the master of ceremonies.

The Tennessee Historical Commission, through the efforts of the Gen. Cates Memorial Fund Committee, provided the marker.