Ted Taylor ’68 had the best 10 days of his life in late June of 1971.
Taylor, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot serving in Vietnam, came home on leave to meet his son, Saddler Taylor ’93, who was born the previous month. When the 10 days were up, he packed his bags and his memories and returned to the war.
A few weeks later, on July 15, 1971, Taylor was killed when the Cobra helicopter he was flying was shot down while he was on a reconnaissance mission.
If not for an unbreakable bond formed during his days at Wofford, that’s where the story would end.
Before he left for Vietnam, Taylor asked his best friend and fraternity brother, Gray Abercrombie ’68, to look after his wife, Muriel, if anything happened to him. Promise made, promise kept.
“They formed a pretty tight circle during their college years,” says Saddler, the director of the South Carolina Military Museum in Columbia and a lieutenant colonel in the South Carolina National Guard. “They were both in ROTC, and when they graduated and got commissioned, they kind of went their separate ways.”
Abercrombie, who also served a tour of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, sought out Muriel when he returned. They helped each other through the grief of Taylor’s death, and they were married in 1973. He died this past March, just before their 50th anniversary.
After Vietnam, Abercrombie transitioned to the U.S. Navy, where he served for more than 23 years and became an accomplished naval aviator, retiring at the rank of commander. After his military career, he flew with United Airlines until his retirement in 2011.
Abercrombie took on the role of raising Saddler, and he often told him stories about Taylor. When Saddler was 13 or 14, Abercrombie adopted him.
“From age 2 on, he was my dad,” says Saddler. “When he adopted me, they gave me the option of keeping the Taylor name. Ted was an only child, and I was the last of the Taylor line. I didn’t want to lose that. I’ve got two boys of my own now, so hopefully Ted’s legacy will continue.”
The story has one more chapter, and Saddler is helping to write it.
One day he was scrolling the Wofford website, as he does a couple of times a year to catch up on news of his alma mater, when he learned about the military memorial being developed to honor graduates who died while on active duty. He gave a gift in memory of Taylor and Abercrombie.
“People need to be reminded in tasteful ways about how many people have sacrificed for something they believe in,” Saddler says. “I certainly want to be a part of that. I want to put the names out there of folks who were serving because they believed in the person to their left and to their right. We should all strive to such a high ideal.”