Allan Johnson III stands near his father, Allan Johnson Jr., and holds a bullet in his hand.
The bullet is a link between the 54-year-old, his 87-year-old father and his great-great-grandfather, Civil War veteran and public servant Brevet Maj. Gen. Alvin Coe Voris.
Voris will be honored next month by the Summit County Historical Society as a highly decorated veteran of the Civil War and a public servant in Summit County and Ohio.
“He was a good leader of men,” said Allan Johnson Jr., a retired Akron attorney.
Voris is one of eight men and women named as the 2013 Class of Summit Award recipients who will be recognized at a dinner March 16 at Greystone Hall in Akron.
The bullet that Johnson III held in his hand was taken out of Voris’ bladder 10 years after he was wounded at Fort Wagner in South Carolina in April 1863. It has remained in the family ever since.
When he was first wounded, Voris was treated by Clara Barton, who later went on to form the American Red Cross.
Doctors thought they removed the entire bullet from Voris’ abdomen but a large piece remained lodged in his bladder.
Jerome Mushkat, professor emeritus of history at the University of Akron, edited a book of Civil War letters that Voris wrote to his wife, Lydia.
“Alvin Coe Voris, an attorney, state legislator, judge, abolitionist, women’s rights advocate, husband, and father, from Akron, Ohio, typified the best qualities of Civil War citizen-soldiers,” Mushkat wrote in A Citizen-Soldier’s Civil War: The Letters of Brevet Major General Alvin C. Voris.
Mushkat said he became aware of the Voris letters in the late 1990s when a student in one of his Civil War classes approached him with a transcript of some of the letters.
“I looked at the letters and I realized these were golden,” said Mushkat, who then connected with Johnson Jr. and began working on editing the letters.
He took the transcripts and then read every single handwritten letter and used the letters for the book.
“It is what historians dream of finding — an undiscovered collection of letters,” Mushkat said.
What was unusual about the letters is that they covered the entire Civil War period. The letters are now kept at the University of Akron Archives.
In one letter, Voris, a member of the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, wrote to his wife on July 3, 1863, of the sacrifices of war, writing from Folly Island, S.C.
“I feel rather sadly this afternoon and have just returned from a visit to the hospital,” he wrote. “Stayed half an hour with the sick boys. One poor fellow will probably die in a few hours. He was in a close corner of the tent, and could not get air enough and was quite restless because the attendant would not roll the bottom of the tent up.
“I ordered a seam to be ripped open near his head, remarking that the Col was good for something yet. Yes, said he. I always told them that. He wanted me to sit down and fan him awhile which I did, so much to his satisfaction that he soon fell asleep.”
Then Voris continued to speak of “how I pity the poor soldier who has to die in the field far from home. No kind mother, wife or sister to attend him as his trembling body sinks in the rivers of death, No one at home will ever know how much they owe to the patriotic soldier who thus offers up his life, a sacrifice for his home, his country.”
Voris still has a presence in Akron. A street and the Voris Community Learning Center are named for him.
Voris was a state representative, temporary probate court judge and common pleas court judge in Summit County.
“He is an unsung hero to today’s generation,” said Leianne Neff Heppner, executive director of the Summit County Historical Society.
The society has numerous items that belonged to Voris in its collection, including a saddle and a carved wooden model of The General, the name of a Civil War era railroad steam engine made famous in the Disney movie The Great Locomotive Chase. It was done by former slave Charles Adams, whom Voris brought back to Akron after the Civil War.
Heppner said Adams carved the train in 1890 and gave it to Voris.
“His life is still relevant,” she said.
Voris died in 1904 and is buried at Akron’s Glendale Cemetery.
Others receiving the Summit Award are:
• Olympic gold medal winning ice skaters Carol Heiss, Hayes Jenkins and David Jenkins.
• Industrialist Harvey Firestone Sr.
• Dr. Haynes Robinson, a specialist in pediatric medicine, genetics and anatomic pathology at Akron Children’s Hospital.
• Sculptor Woodrow Nash.
• Television and movie actress Melina Kanakaredes.
The Summit Awards were established in 2011 and are presented to distinguished past and present residents of Akron and Summit County who have been recognized nationally for inspirational accomplishments and whose life stories continue to impact the community.
Tickets to the March 16 event are $150 each. The deadline for purchasing tickets is March 7. For more information, call 330-535-1120 or go to www.summithistory.org.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.