Hanging Rock street to be named for fallen soldier

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 14, 2007

HANGING ROCK — After 15 years of Larry Mullins trying, a street in Hanging Rock will be dedicated to honor a local war hero who sacrificed his life to save his comrades during the Korean War. On Oct. 27, the Village of Hanging Rock will rename Center Street to “Billy Barnett Lane.”

Barnett was reared in Glendale where his mother had a grocery store. In late 1948 he joined the U.S. Army.

“I don’t know why he joined, I think it was wanderlust maybe,” said Mullins, a Flatwoods, Ky. resident who was a childhood friend of Barnett. “He wanted to travel and see the world.”

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Mullins remembers his friend as a football player for the Hanging Rock Rockets and the two of them delivering the Ironton Tribune during the 1940s on Barnett’s bike even though the route took them to almost the Scioto County line.

“He was a good boy, he never got into any kind of trouble,” Mullins said.

Barnett was stationed in Japan when his unit was sent to Korea when war broke out.

Barnett was killed in action on Sept. 16, 1950 saving his army comrades from enemy fire. He was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for bravery awarded to U.S. soldiers.

According to an Ironton News article dated Feb. 20, 1951, the medal and a certificate were presented to his mother, Florence Blair. According to the article, Barnett, a member of 27th Infantry Regiment, was on patrol as a forward observer when the patrol encountered enemy forces near Changayong, Korea. Heavy enemy fire made it impossible for the patrol to move.

According to the citation in the paper, “Barnett realized that the patrol would be annihilated unless the men could withdraw. He left his position of relative safety and crawled to a point which he could direct effective fire.” That made it possible for the patrol to withdraw to a better position but “Barnett refused to accompany them and with full knowledge of his peril, continued to screen his withdrawing comrades with fire.”

After the patrol was out of danger, Barnett’s position was rushed and he killed at least five of them and drove off the rest in hand-to-hand combat.

He was still firing at the enemy when a mortar killed him. He was just shy of 19 years old.

His body was returned to Lawrence County in February 1952 and was buried in Buckeye Cemetery near Haverhill.

Mullins said he has been trying to get the name changed on the street for at least 15 years. It was this month that the Hanging Rock Village Council agreed to change the name.

“Everyone who fought is a hero to me and to a lot of other guys.,” Mullins said. “It was important to me to have a street named for him because of what he did. He was always a good boy and he had lots of friends. He went the extra step.”

“There are places named for people who weren’t in the military,” he continued. “He did something great for his fellow countrymen and I think a place should be named for him where he spent a lot of time.”

Center Street was where the buses would go to the Hanging Rock High School. There are no houses on that street.

“So no one has to change their addresses,” Mullins said. “But I’m sure Billy got on and off the buses quite a few times.”

Final preparations are underway for the dedication. It is scheduled for Saturday Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. Any friends or relatives of Barnett are asked to call Carole Goldcamp at (740) 532-7652.