The Father of the G.I. Bill of Rights. That’s almost all that needs to be said.
Harry Walter Colmery was born in Braddock, Pennsylvania on December 11, 1890. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1913, and attended law school at the University of Pittsburgh.
His career was interrupted by World War I. He enlisted in the Army Air Service and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, serving as an instructor of infantry drill regulations at Kelly Field in Texas. he was then promoted to first lieutenant and trained to be a pursuit pilot. He logged more than 500 hours in the air, but never in combat. Instead, he trained pilots. After the war he served as a reserve officer, eventually promoted to captain.
Once out of the army he moved to Topeka, and set up his law practice. He also became involved with the American Legion, serving in 1936 as national commander.
He was active in pursuing veterans’ issues, but his greatest effort came in 1944. He is credited with writing the draft of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, what we refer to as the G.I. Bill. Many have argued that no other legislation of the 20th century has had the impact on the country as the G.I. Bill has.
Colmery never took all the credit for the bill, but certainly, he was a driving force that was necessary to get it passed.
Colmery passed away on August 23, 1979 at the age of 88. Perhaps fittingly, he was attending the 61st National Convention of the American Legion at Houston.
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