He was considered missing in action since that day that will live in infamy, December 7th, 1941. Seventy five years after he was killed during the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the remains of Navy Ensign Lewis Bailey Pride Jr. finally returned home to Madisonville Friday afternoon.
In 2015, the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting agency exhumed a large number of remains from the underwater mausoleum of the USS Oklahoma. With modern day DNA testing, one set of remains was positively identified as Pride.
Pride’s flag-draped casket arrived at an airport in Nashville Friday morning before it was given a full military escort back to Madisonville. As Pride’s hearse weaved through downtown before arriving at Harris Funeral Home, dozens of people, many of whom waving flags, made sure to give Pride the proper welcome.
“To know that he served our country and died doing it and to bring him home, I just can’t say enough how amazing it is,” said Trudi Wilson, the funeral administrator for Harris Funeral Home. “Just the effort that the Navy has brought forth to bring him home, I give great honors to them.”
Pride’s second cousin, Laddie Pride, sat in the front passenger seat of the hearse. As he exited, he was greeted with tearful hugs and a large crowd of state troopers, military personnel and caring citizens.
It was almost overwhelming, he said.
“It’s a miracle: the honor they paid to this young man,” Laddie Pride said. “Even though I was born three years after he died. I could come up here and they’d say, ‘are you kin to Bailey Pride?’ I could say yes. I just thank the good Lord they’re doing what they’re doing.”
Laddie Pride was among the first people to welcome Bailey, his second cousin, home. As the casket disembarked the aircraft, he even had the rare opportunity to touch it.
Simply put, Bailey Pride Jr. is a hero to the people of Madisonville.
“We have Pride Elementary, which is named after him. We have Pride Avenue and Bailey Drive. We have always honored him,” Wilson said. In 1943, the US Navy named a destroyer after Pride.
While funerals are typically somber occasions, Pride’s will be more of a celebration. This service in particular means something more for Wilson too.
“Being a military wife, it is just truly an honor,” Wilson said as she choked back tears.
Ask anyone from Madisonville and, chances are, they’ll tell you that it’s a city of pride. But on this day 75 years delayed, Pride’s much-anticipated arrival serves as a reminder of where that pride comes from.
“I feel proud that I’m a Pride. I feel proud that I’m a relative of his. I’m proud that I’m a member of this great country,” Laddie Pride said. “At the cemetery, you’ll see his mother and father prepared for him to come home. But they didn’t realize that times would change and he would have to be buried by his mother, which is where I requested him to be buried. It’s going to be a glorious time knowing that they’re next to him.”
Pride’s burial will take place at Odd Fellows Cemetery at 11 a.m. Saturday. The public is invited to attend.