LAMPASAS — Edwin Witten, who died in 1995 at age 75, was a Lampasas native and valued community member.
A decorated hero of the Korean War, he was permanently paralyzed after the plane he was piloting was shot down by the Chinese over Korean soil.
Although his legs were injured, Witten flew himself and a Canadian observer into friendly territory using only the hand controls available to him, saving both their lives.
In honor of Witten, American Legion Post 277 recently established the Capt. Edwin Witten, USAF, Scholarship Fund to help Lampasas High School seniors who are related to Post 277 members.
Each year, one senior will be chosen by post committee members to receive an award of at least $1,000.
Jan Sewall, Witten’s daughter, said her father spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Sewall, who still lives in Lampasas, said her father spent an entire year at a veterans hospital in Memphis learning how to adapt to his new life as a paraplegic after the incident.
“He was a reconnaissance pilot and always intended on making the Air Force his permanent career, but the doctors didn’t want him to work because of his disability,” Sewall said.
She said her dad not only continued to work in several different capacities, but also reached out to help others and served as a mentor to those with similar disabilities.
“For other paraplegics needing assistance, the doctors would often put them in touch with my dad so he could offer help and encouragement. He always believed you don’t have to spend your life wasting away, and he helped others as they adapted to coping with their injuries,” Sewall said.
Post 277 Commander James Briggs said Witten’s desire to help others was a motivating factor in establishing the scholarship fund.
“He was a super, super good man and did so much for others,” Briggs said.
Witten worked for the Lampasas school district for several years as the district’s tax assessor/collector. He helped re-establish the school’s tax system after devastating floods swept through the city in the 1950s.
Sewall said her dad was the official timekeeper at high school and middle school games played at Badger Stadium and kept score at all the local Little League games.
“They all saw dad as a fixture on the sidelines and most people knew him as they grew up,” Sewall said. “In a small town, there are so many people dedicated to making the community grow and prosper, but you couldn’t have found anyone more ethical or who cared more about his work than my dad. I guess that’s why he was so good at what he did.”