A name spoken, and now never forgotten: Former Leon Lion and Army veteran Billy Maddox receives headstone

Posted at 10:20 AM, Sep 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 10:20:56-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — After nearly 80 years in an unmarked grave, former Leon High school student turned Army veteran Billy Maddox now has a headstone to honor his life and legacy.

"What this means to me is there's some closure," said Maddox's niece, Sarah Farren.

For nearly eight decades, Maddox has laid in an unmarked grave at the highest point in Oakland Cemetary in Tallahassee, who died in 1944 after he was hit by a car while helping change a tire on the side of a road. He died in a Camp Blanding hospital.

The grave is nameless no more.

"That's the idea behind the headstone, that people will speak his name, and he is not forgotten," said David Wilson, who helped secure the headstone for Maddox.

Wilson began identifying Veterans who died during our wars during the pandemic. Farren had been searching for answers of her own.

"We didn't know where he was buried. The family didn't talk about it," she said. "We have nobody to ask. There's nobody on my father's side of the family to ask."

Maddox's mother died in 1943. What the family didn't know then was that Maddox's brother Bobby was killed in action in France a day before his car accident.

"It was too painful for my father to discuss having lost both his brothers and his mother in a year and a half," said Farren. "Finally I opened an ancestry page. I need to know more!"

"She posted a picture on Ancestry that I had not seen, and I clicked on the picture, and it said that was her uncle," remembered Wilson.

And so the dots were connected. Maddox was hailed as one of the greatest athletes to come out of Leon High school when he graduated in 1944.

"If you go back and look through the records, he was a major factor in key ball games," said Wilson. Maddox was a four sport letterwinner, and thanks to Wilson's research, he is now a member of Leon High School's Football Hall of Fame.

"They called him little Billy Maddox, 5-foot-ten, 135 pounds, they just said he was all heart," said Ferran. "I felt so proud too. It's hard for me to find the words to express it. You have no idea what this means for our family."

A family with a name that will now never be forgotten. Maddox's older brother is buried in France in a military cemetary. Maddox's headstone was paid for Tallahassee's AMVETS 1776, and Wilson said the plan is to add a military headstone in the future.