John H. Anderson Collection
Dr. John Hilmer Anderson was born on December 16, 1922 in Kansas City, Missouri. John’s early years were happy and simple. He had one sibling, an older sister named Vivian. Music was one of the biggest parts of his childhood. He sang at his Methodist church and on the radio. This would be a precursor for his later career. John went on to receive his B.A. at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music. During his last term as a student he was drafted into the military during World War II.
During the war John was a radio operator on a B-17 with the US Army Air Corps. He flew 24 missions with the 388th Bomber Squadron before being shot down over Germany and spending the last eight months of the war as a Prisoner of War (POW). While a POW John led music classes, worship services and even choirs. He stated that his love of music helped him survive his time as a POW in Germany by keeping his spirits high.
After John returned home from the war he took an assistant band director position at the University of Georgia. It was there that he met his wife, Hazel. John and Hazel had six children, John, Jack, Lezah, Peter, Philip, and Paul, all born in Athens, Georgia. John continued his career as a higher education teacher and eventually became the Head of the Fine Arts Department at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee. His accomplishments in his given field included starting a college choir that toured the U.S., beginning the chamber concert series in McKenzie, and later becoming the Chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Columbus College (later Columbus State University) in Columbus, Georgia.
In 1982 John retirement and moved to Mexico Beach Florida with his wife, where they remained for twenty-seven years. It was in Florida that John became involved in the Florida Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization. He eventually rose to the rank of Commander. In 2010 John and Hazel moved to Kernersville, North Carolina to be closer to their daughter, Lezah. John continued to be active in the Central Region of North Carolina’s Ex-POW chapter until his death in 2013.
This collection and all the information provided has been graciously donated to the Kernersville Museum by John’s daughter Lezah Arney. If you’re interested in taking a closer look at this collection please visit the Museum during any of our open business hours.