In 1935, Greenbrier Military School (GMS) sported the top rifle team in the United States. Coached by Sgt. C.C. Conyers and led by co-captains Cadet William Preston of Lewisburg and Cadet Olin Jennings of Williamson, West Virginia, the team won the William Randolph Hearst national rife contest. Hearst, a wealthy owner of a large network of newspapers, inaugurated the William Randolph Hearst Trophy National R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officer Training Corps) rifle matches to promote interest in rifle shooting between R.O.T.C. units in high schools, military schools and colleges in 1922. In 1934, the U.S. War Department took over the matches.
To take national honors in the military schools division, GMS defeated Syracuse’s The Manlius School by four points, scoring 961 out of a possible 1,000. Preston and Jennings tied for the national individual marksmanship award – each scoring 194 out of a possible 200. The cadets brought back to Lewisburg the gold Hearst trophy, and Preston and Jennings received gold watches. In addition, GMS received a letter of commendation from General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the War Department. GMS’s second team finished higher than any other team. Over a seven-year period, GMS was ranked number one in the nation.
After graduating from GMS, Preston graduated from the United States Military Academy. He had a career in the U. S. Army, served in Korea, and retired as a Colonel.
He died in 1995 and is buried with his wife, Lydia Alderson Preston, in the Stuart family cemetery near Lewisburg.
Jennings became a highly decorated navigator in the U. S. Air Force and was wounded during World War II. He died tragically in 1954 leaving behind a wife and three young children. He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Photo: Briar Patch (1935).
Sources: Green-Briars, Briar Patch, The West Virginia News, Covington Virginian.