THE YEAR WAS ….1943
Mystery of Shooting of Soldier Investigated
Grave marker of Pvt. Kelvie Bryant
1912 – 1943
Casper Church Cemetery, Anna, Illinois.
OCEAN CITY, Md., April 15. – Worcester County Sheriff Edwin D. Lynch said last night that he was continuing the five-day-old investigation into the death of Private Kelvie Bryant, 30-year-old soldier of Camp Decatur, Berlin, whose body was found early last Saturday morning [April 10], with a bullet wound through his chest and body.
State’s Attorney William G. Kerbin said county officials and Maryland State Police Trooper Samuel E. Sherwell were cooperating with a military board of inquiry from the Chesapeake Bay Army Sector headquarters in investigating the death of the soldier.
Private Bryant, native of Anna, Ill., met his death while on duty at Ocean City, it was said by Ocean City police. The body was found lying on the floor of a porch at an abandoned Ocean City building, formerly used as a Negro hotel, the police report added.
The death certificate issued in Worcester County stated that Bryant died as the result of gunshot wounds in his chest and body.
Bryant’s body has been sent to a relative, Mrs. Mamie Chapman, in Anna, Ill.
→ Curator’s note: We have been able to learn very little about Kelvie Bryant. He was born in 1912 in Indiana. The 1930 census report shows 18-year-old Kelvie living in Anna, Illinois, a small town in Union County in the southwestern part of the state, with his mother Pearl, a widow working as a private family servant, and a younger sister, Mildred. According to the report, Pearl was only 13 years old when she gave birth to her son.
Kelvie joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era public work relief program, in 1935. Military records disclose that he enlisted in the Army at a recruiting office in Chicago on April 17, 1941. The enlistment record reports that Kelvie was slight in stature, 5’ 6” tall, weighing 128 pounds, and had only a grammar school education. He was probably assigned to Camp Decatur near Berlin shortly after the camp officially opened on April 25, 1942.
The former “Negro hotel” where Kelvie’s body was found was the Pine Tree Hotel (or Inn), located on the southeast corner of South Division Street and Baltimore Avenue, directly across Baltimore Avenue from the better known Henry Hotel, which also catered to a black clientele. Clarence Carey, the part owner and operator of the Capitol Theatre on Worcester Street, owned the building in 1943. The hotel, which Clarence had leased to John W. Smack since the late 1930s, closed in 1941 or 1942, after many of its tenants, principally hotel workers in Ocean City, left the area for jobs in war-related industries. Clarence sold the building in 1944 to James Graham, a black man whom Clarence and his wife Sadie had employed as a laborer for several years. Graham reopened the hotel in 1945 as the “Grand Terrace,” again serving “colored only.” The building was torn down in the 1970s after the Trimper family’s Windsor Resort acquired the property.
As far as we can tell, the outcome of the military board of inquiry into the death of Kelvie Bryant was never made public. We also could not find any reports of his death or funeral in the Illinois newspapers. His body was buried at the Casper Church Cemetery in Anna.
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