CARLISLE, Pa. – Col. William Mellard “Bill” Connor V of Orangeburg will make legacy history at the U.S. Army War College later this week when he becomes a third-generation graduate of the storied institution and a distinguished honor graduate.
Connor’s family is not the first legacy family, but one of very few in the college’s 117-year history. Connor’s father, retired Lt. Col. William Mellard Connor I, and his grandfather, the late Brig. Gen. William Mellard Connor III, also graduated from the Army War College, making the Connor family the third with a three-successive-generation graduation legacy at the college.
“This is a personal honor for my family,” said Connor, a career U.S. Army infantry officer. “Beyond that, it’s a great South Carolina story because, as I understand of the very few legacy families – third-succession or otherwise – at the Army War College, there are now at least two legacy families from the Palmetto State or with deeply rooted S.C. connections.”
The other S.C. family is the Sniffin family, including Col. Pete Sniffin who previously resided in Columbia for a few years and is today serving on the staff of the Army War College as a chaplain; his brother, Col. Charles “Chip” Sniffin; his father, the late Maj. Gen. Charles R. Sniffin; and his maternal grandfather, the late Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Hearn, all of whom are graduates of the Army War College.
The Army War College Foundation and Alumni News, the official publication of the college, lists a few other multigenerational alumni and successive generation families, including the family of Maj. Gen. Ray E. Porter, the family of Maj. Gen. John Tillson and the Gen. Barry McCaffrey family.
Not all Army officer applicants are selected to attend the Army War College. Those who are must first have been promoted to at least the rank of lieutenant colonel, and within that group less than 10 percent of applicants are admitted each year. Those ultimately graduating are awarded master’s degrees in strategic studies.
Connor, a graduate of both The Citadel and the University of South Carolina School of Law, is a U.S. Army Ranger and a Reserve infantry officer who also served in both the regular Army and the S.C. Army National Guard. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, serving as the senior U.S. military adviser in Helmand Province.
He currently serves as S.C.’s emergency preparedness liaison officer, the senior federal military representative to the state for U.S. Army North. As EPLO, Connor assists the Palmetto State during times of manmade or natural disasters such as Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.
When he’s not in uniform, Connor is a practicing attorney in Orangeburg. As such, he’s had to juggle the responsibilities of work, time with family (he’s married with three children), Army Reserve EPLO duties and the demands of the college over the past two years as a distance education student with some residence time at Carlisle.
The Connor family Army legacy extends beyond the three War College graduates.
The first William Mellard Connor was a 16-year-old rifleman in an Orangeburg militia unit at the beginning of the American Civil War. He went on to serve in a coastal artillery unit in Charleston and lastly as an infantryman with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army operating in North Carolina during the final days of the war.
Connor I’s son, William Mellard Connor II, served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection. He ultimately retired as a colonel and head of the law department at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point.
Connor III, the first to graduate from the Army War College, graduated from West Point and was a Rhode's Scholar. He saw action in World War II, commanded a battalion during the Korean War and later saw action in the early period of the Vietnam War.
Connor IV, also a West Point and Army War College graduate, served with distinction in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star.
When Bill Connor V graduates from the Army War College on Friday, July 27, he will have completed his studies exactly 32 years after his father’s graduation from the elite institution, graduating exactly 32 years after his father (Connor V’s grandfather).