At-98 years old, Richard “Dick” Inlow has called Danville home for many years, but he originally hails from Detroit, Michigan. He earned an English degree, but his career path ended up more calculating than conjugating. For 30 years, Inlow taught as a math professor at Averett University in Danville. He has spent time as an actor and a preacher and is an accomplished tennis player, winning thirty trophies.
Inlow’s life is full of interesting tales, but the most memorable stories come from serving time in the Marines as a Seabee during World War II.
Inlow earned multiple honors during his service in the Marines. In 1944, he was a part of the Invasion of Green Island, repairing the airstrip, which he claimed was “the island’s only feature of interest.” They succeeded with little difficulty and were all awarded a battle star for this mission, but the story has deeper layers. Inlow did not find out until many years later that one of his mates on the island was none other than Commander Richard M. Nixon, who later became the commanding officer on the island. He joked, “Had I knew this while Nixon was president, I would have communicated with him and surely would have been invited to the White House for a friendly glass of ginger ale and many an evening chat about days gone by.”
Not all missions were as simple as Green Island. Inlow fought in the Battle of Peleliu, one of the most important Pacific battles in World War II. Peleliu was a small island, only ten square miles, less than one-fourth the size of Danville. While the island may not seem like much, it was “the grave of many men.” He recalled, “When we ‘hit the beach’ we were met by a Japanese force of over 10,000 soldiers. When it was over, months instead of the expected days later, only 301 Japanese prisoners survived, while the Marines suffered the greatest percentage of casualties in Marine Corps’ history.” Upon returning, Inlow and his comrades wore the battle star they were awarded from this perilous venture proudly, amongst their other honors.
Over 70 years later, Inlow has completed his time serving our nation, but continues to be honored for his bravery. In 2022, he was invited to go on an Honor Flight alongside his brother. The Honor Flight Network coordinates the flying in of veterans from all over the nation to Washington, DC, at no cost to them, to show its appreciation. While in DC, veterans are taken to tour national monuments. On Inlow’s trip, he visited The National World War II Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Pentagon, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and a performance of the “Silent Drill.” He shared, “When the group found out I was a Seabee, the bus turned around and made a special trip to the Seabee Memorial which features a huge, bare-chested, impossibly muscled Seabee protecting a small, thin boy. Of course, everybody said I had posed for the statue, which was true, but I withheld the fact that it was the small, weak boy I posed for.”
As part of the Honor Flight, veterans are assigned a guardian who is there to look after their every need. Larry Fink was Inlow’s guardian. He shared that Fink quickly became a best friend and stayed in touch. Months after the Honor Flight, Fink called Inlow and said, “Get ready, Richard, we’re going to New Orleans.” The news of the trip to The Big Easy shocked Inlow. Fink solved the mystery, informing him they were going to be attending a “Soaring Valor” trip to visit the National World War II Museum. The Soaring Valor is like the Honor Flight Network, in that their work is to honor and show appreciation to veterans. Soaring Valor is specific to World War II veterans. The program also extends to students, providing them a visit to the Museum, and to engage with veterans. Soaring Valor teaches about the atrocities of World War II and helps to preserve the stories of those who served.
The Museum struck Inlow by its size. “In one room, there are six or seven World War II airplanes hanging from the ceiling, and two of them are bombers. And a little Marine Corsair, which was the plane I saw the most of in the Pacific theater.” There is also a replica of the Stage Door Canteen. The original Stage Door Canteen was in the Broadway District in NYC, a venue where servicemen could come and unwind and forget their troubles for at least a short period. Besides performances, military personnel were offered free food and opportunities to dance with the hostesses. Many celebrities, including Perry Como, Duke Ellington, Alfred Hitchcock, and Gypsy Rose Lee, volunteered their time to contribute to the effort. New Orleans’ version of the Stage Door Canteen featured the Victory Belles. “They are a professional trio who intentionally sound just like The Andrews Sisters,” Inlow remarked.
For Inlow, the Museum’s main event was the immersive movie theater experience. He described it. “The screen was 180 degrees around us, and as tall as a house, and separated from the audience by an orchestra pit. Narrated by Tom Hanks, it tried to cover the entire war from Hitler coming to power to General MacArthur overseeing Japan’s surrender on the deck of the Missouri. It is a memorable experience.”
In addition to his time in World War II, Inlow has achieved a lifetime of great accomplishments. The answer to why an English major connected with numbers is simple. Averett needed a math professor, and Inlow needed a job. So, he made Danville hone. He taught 45 years, 30 of which were at Averett. Though he may have switched words for numbers, Inlow’s love of language remained pertinent. Once at a faculty meeting, he delivered an entire report in iambic pentameter (a line of verse with five metrical feet, consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable; the form in which Shakespeare is famous for writing in.) He gave some very memorable speeches and was admired by students and parents alike. Inlow really just loves to speak. He occasionally preaches at his church and has acted in over a hundred stage plays. He performed throughout his time in college and later acted in many of the Averett theatre department’s plays while teaching there. Over the course of his lifetime, Inlow has combined his two worlds, Marine and Linguist, by writing about his experiences.
A Poem by Dick Inlow
The Golden Gate Bridge
Emerged from the haze
A long way off.
We watched it grow
And curve from land to land.
All ships were drawn toward it
As though with suction
It was emptying the sea.
Before long it was over us
And we looked straight up
And watched it pass-
And we were back where children play.
But even then
Our thoughts went back
To many a lonely Coral Isle
Where fallen comrades lay.