Cotton Milner: From Injured Pearl Harbor Vet To High School Football Standout

On December 7, 1941, R.G. “Cotton” Milner was on the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On December 5, 1942, he was playing wingback[1] in the first round of the Texas high school football playoffs for Robert E. Lee High School in Goose Creek.

In doing so, he became possibly the only Texan injured in a World War II conflict and return to high school to play football.[2]

On December 7, 1941, Milner was injured “about the head”[3] when the USS Arizona was struck by Japanese bombs. He then received an honorable discharge from the Navy, and returned home to Goose Creek at the start of the second semester of the 1941-1942 school year. He was 16 and entered Robert E. Lee High School in Goose Creek. [4]

When Milner asked Coach Dan Stallworth for a spot on the football team, the coach wasn’’t keen on the idea. He finally allowed Milner to play after team physician Dr. Herbert Duke gave his approval.

“Cotton might have been five years getting completely over his wounds had he not been able to plunge in to the football season and get his mind off the horror that taxed every mental and physical process of a then 16-year-old youth,” his coach said.[5]

Milner was a key player for the team, and helped lead them to the 1942 district championship. They lost to John H. Reagan High School of Houston in the first round of the state playoffs On December 5, 1942.

 

[1] (Untitled brief) Corsicana Daily Sun, December 7, 1942, p.1.

[2] Associated Press, “Pearl Harbor Veteran of 17 Ends Season On School Team,” The Dallas Morning News, December 6, 1942.

[3] “Pearl Harbor Veteran Plays School Football To Forget His Wounds,” Valley Morning Star, December 25, 1942.

[4] Associated Press, “Pearl Harbor Veteran of 17 Ends Season On School Team,” The Dallas Morning News, December 6, 1942.

[5] “Pearl Harbor Veteran Plays School Football To Forget His Wounds,” Valley Morning Star, December 25, 1942.

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Vince Leibowitz

Publisher & Editor at Contemporary Texas History
Vince Leibowitz is a journalist, author, and historian. He is the Publisher and Editor of Contemporary Texas History.

He lives in Colorado County, Texas with his two dogs, Lyndon "Puppy" and Senfronia.

He serves on the Colorado County Historical Commission and as Managing Editor of The Colorado County Citizen.

He recently secured a Texas Historical Marker for Etta Moten Barnett. the first black woman to sing solo in the White House. In April, 2019, he was named South Texas Press Association Journalist of the Year for Division I.
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