WWI 37th Division Chaplain Portrait – William P. O’Connor, American Legion National Catholic Chaplain

Identified chaplain photos have become incredibly popular in the past few years given the ramp-up effort to prepare for the 100 year anniversary of WWI.  I’ve made an effort to scoop up as many interesting chaplain photos as possible to share here on PortraitsofWar to help spread the word about the U.S. involvement in the war.  A recent eBay duel landed me with a top-notch portrait of a 37th Division (primarily Ohio based division) chaplain posed with his WWI Victory Medal and uniform.  The inscription on the bottom ends with a crude signature.  I was able to do my typical google,  ancestry.com, Library of Congress and Fold3 search to come up with a 100% positive identification.

Lt. William O'Connor

Lt. William O’Connor

William Patrick O’ Connor was born in Dayton, Ohio on October 7th, 1889 to John and Elizabeth (Kenney) O’Connor.  He attended the University of Dayton for his B.A. and followed up with seminary school at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati.  He was ordained in 1913 and served as Curate at Urbana, Ohio, 1913-117; later paston, Church of the Assumption in Cincinnati(Source).    William O’Connor has the distinction of being the first Ohio priest to enter the army following the declaration of war in 1917.Father  O’Connor served as chaplain with Battery F, 136th Field Artillery as part of the 37th “Buckeye” Division during WWI.  At the time of the portrait, he was the chaplain of the 107th Cavalry of the Ohio National Guard.    I was lucky enough to track down a 1918 article with a direct quotation from Rev. O’Connor:

“…………… I take this occasion to thank the Knights of Columbus of Cincinnati for their exceeding kindness and consideration to the Chaplain, and to thank all the people of Ohio for their kindness to the soldier boys. 

With best wishes, in J.M.J. I am, sincerely yours,

William P. O’Connor,

First Lt. 136th Field Artillery Chaplain”


Father O’Connor was elected National Chaplain of the American Legion after the third ballot and was in a tight heat with Rev. Ezra Clemmons of Iowa and Rev. Roy Tucker of Baton Rouge, LA.  For more info check out the following site: http://arc.stparchive.com/Archive/ARC/ARC11041922p05.php

Newspaper Clipping of Father O'Connor, 1922

Newspaper Clipping of Father O’Connor, 1922


58 Ringgold St, Dayton Ohio

58 Ringgold St, Dayton Ohio

And where he lived in Dayton, Ohio

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