Remembering Brig. Gen. Melvin L. Byrd

A decorated Army veteran with a special connection to The Root family, he passed away Aug. 25 at age 75.

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Retired Brig. Gen. Melvin L. Byrd

Sadly, the military community has lost a decorated veteran with a distinguished career. Retired Brig. Gen. Melvin L. Byrd, 75, passed away last Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011, after a period of illness.

He was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Suffolk, Va., Howard University, and Babson College, where he earned an MBA. His military education included Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ordnance Officer Advanced Course, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.

He was commissioned in the U.S. Army in 1959, where he spent more than 32 years serving his country, including overseas assignments in Iran, Vietnam (two tours), Korea, and Germany. During his distinguished career he held several command positions, including Commander, 702nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, Korea; Commander, Division Support Command, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; Commander, Electronics Materiel Readiness Activity, Vint Hill Farms Station, Warrenton, Va.; Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Europe. His final military assignment was Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Communications and Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

His decorations include The Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star (two Oak Leaf Clusters), Meritorious Service Medal (two Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and Senior Parachutist Badge.

Known as "Popcorn" to childhood friends, Byrd was well-read and enjoyed engaging in political debate. Another passion of his was the General Melvin Byrd Endowed Scholarship Fund, through which he supported undergraduate students for many years.

Born Nov. 1, 1935, in Suffolk, Va., to Harry and Lenora Byrd, he is survived by his wife, Diane; daughters, Donna (the publisher of The Root), Melanie and Rosslyn; son, Melvin Jr.; grandsons, Melvin III "Micah," Marcus Jr., Joshua and Avery; sisters, Edith Lassiter, Mary Martin and Evelyn Edwards; brother, Harry Jr.; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held today at the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, 1160 D St., Virginia Beach, VA 23459, at 3 p.m. Interment at Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors, is pending.

Byrd's family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to Howard University, via this address:

Howard University Office of Development
c/o General Melvin Byrd Scholarship Fund
2225 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20059

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