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Laurens Shull


Date and Place of Birth: January 17, 1894 Sioux City, IA
Date and Place of Death:    August 5, 1918 American Red Cross Hospital No. 1, Neully, France
Baseball Experience: College
Position: Pitcher
Rank: First Lieutenant
Military Unit: Company G, 26th Infantry Regiment, First Division
Area Served: France

Laurens C. “Spike” Shull, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Deloss C. Shull, was born on January 17, 1894, in Sioux City, Iowa. Shull won letters in baseball, basketball and football each year he was at Sioux City High School, and in his senior year, he was captain of both the football and basketball teams.

He entered the University of Chicago in October 1912 and was prominent in baseball, basketball and football. His sophomore year he played on the 1913 football championship team of the Western Conference. He was unanimously selected as "All-Western" tackle in 1914 and 1915 and was All-America selection in 1915. That same year, the University of Chicago baseball team toured Japan for five months. Unfortunately, Shull was unable to make the trip as his services were required on the football field.

Shull, a pitcher, captained the baseball team his senior year and earned high praise from his former teammate, turned assistant baseball coach, Paul Des Jardien. "We shall have a corking good baseball team next spring with nine veterans back on the squad," Jardien told the Chicago Herald in January 1916, "Spike Shull will be the regular twirler and will be as good as I ever was, if not better." (Des Jardien, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, pitched one game for the Cleveland Indians in 1916).

Des Jardien was right, Shull hurled a one-hitter against Northeastern on April 12 and held Iowa to two hits on April 28.

Shull  graduated in June 1916, and worked for bankers, Charles and Clyde Brenton, at their Farmers' Bank in Woodward, Iowa. Within a year he held the position of vice president. During his time in Woodward, Shull coached the high school football team, and refereed football and basketball games throughout the state.

On May 15, 1917, Shull resigned his position at the bank and entered the First Officers' Training Camp at Fort Snelling, near Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was commissioned a second Lieutenant in the Infantry Reserve Corps and was selected for immediate duty in France. Sailing on September 7, 1917, his ship landed at Liverpool, England, before continuing the journey to France. He was assigned to the Company F of the 26th Infantry Regiment, First Division, in December 1917, when that division was occupying a portion of the line in the Toul sector. Company F was in the battalion commanded by Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

He was later transferred to Company G, of the same regiment and was fatally wounded on July 19, 1918, at Soissons, in the famous Chateau Thierry battle. Spike Shull died at American Red Cross Hospital No. 1 in Neully, France, on August 5, 1918.

After learning of Shull's death, Chicago's football coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg, wrote a letter to Shull's parents:

"The last time I saw him was when the big handsome boy appeared in my office and asked for a recommendation to an Officers Training Camp. He told me that he wanted to get into the Fort Sheridan Camp where so many of his friends would be, and in his droll way (referring the draft) said, 'Mr. Stagg, they'd get me the first thing, I'm so big. So I'm going to fool them and enlist.' From his talk I gathered that 'Spike' did not look upon his enlistment in the boyish spirit of adventure but as a duty. He gave me the impression that he felt that there was no sufficient reason why he should not go and he was going to offer his services freely. During the three years I was his coach in football, I got a good insight into his nature and character and I grew to appreciate and to admire and to love him. 'Spike' had an unusually true and honest soul with a serious-mindedness to duty which does not come to many people until well along in middle life. ... 'Spike's' life at the University was clean, sincere, manly and brave. He was universally respected and loved by many. Speaking of him as I knew him, I have said several times that I did not know any young man more fit to appear before his Maker. His life has been beautifully true and his death has been supremely noble."

For his action in leading his men against a German machine-gun nest on that day he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In his honor, the Sioux City post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars named their post Laurens C. Shull Post. No. 580.

In 1921, his body was returned to the United States and now rests at Graceland Park Mausoleum in Sioux City, Iowa. Shull was further honored in 1924 with one of the memorial columns at the new Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus at Urbana, Illinois. He was the only individual who was not a University of Illinois student to be honored by a memorial at the new stadium. His image, wearing a military uniform, is also carved into the exterior of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel completed in 1928.

Laurens Shull Grave

Fort Wayne Daily News, April 13, 1916
Iowa City News, April 29, 1916
Waterloo Times-Tribune, August 16, 1918
Jacksonville Daily Journal, November 3, 1921

Thanks to Astrid van Erp, for help with photos for this biography.

Date Added September 2, 2013 Updated July 30, 2017

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