Powell A. Layton
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 07/10/1943 - 06/19/1946
Skipper, LCT-855, LCT-855

Powell was born in Bastrop, Texas, as one of six children of Thomas Alexander Layton, a barber, and Julia Mae Spence Layton, who taught in a one-room schoolhouse before she married. Soon after he was born the family moved into a two-bedroom house in Smithville, twelve miles south of Bastrop. His father often traveled to find work during the Depression and mail money home. "I could always remember on Monday mornings my mother would hopefully get that special delivery envelope with maybe two or three or four or five dollars in it," he recalls. Meanwhile, his mother worked in a canning factory. The family had electricity in the house, but often had to have it disconnected. Layton remembers doing homework on the dining room table with the aid of an Alladin lamp. For entertainment, they turned their radio to WOAI in San Antonio, and listened to such programs as Amos 'n Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, and W. Lee O'Daniel and the Light Crust Doughboys. For clothing, the children wore "hand-me-downs" as well as attire his mother ordered from department store catalogues. She also made shirts called Peter Pan shirts. His mother washed clothes outdoors in a wash pot (he cut kindling to fire it) and in two or three big tubs on a bench. One tub was for rinsing and another for "bluing," or water mixed with a substance to make colors more vivid. Family fare consisted mainly of vegetables, with meat as "a delicacy." To help make ends meet, Powell held several jobs as a youngster. He picked cotton, ran two newspaper routes, popped popcorn at a movie theater and cleaned out a cobbler's shop each morning before school, as well as on Saturdays, for fifty cents a week. "Mother got thirty-five cents of it and I kept ten cents for the movie and five cents for the popcorn," he recalls. Powell graduated from Smithville High School in 1940, and worked for a year in a drugstore-cafe to earn college tuition. He recalls "shell-shocked" World War I veterans coming into the drug store once a month to obtain paregoric, a camphorated tincture of opium. "They almost begged for it," he says. After two years at Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, Powell joined the U.S. Navy in July of 1942. He entered preflight school at the University of Texas in Austin, then primary flight training in Memphis. With a surplus of pilots, however, the Navy sent him to an accelerated boot camp, and then to Midshipman School at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. After Submarine Warfare School, he was assigned to a destroyer escort, and patrolled along the Atlantic coast of Florida, using sonar to search for submarines. Later, he entered the Landing Craft Program at Little Creek, Virginia, where he was assigned as skipper to a crew of thirteen aboard LCT-855. After applying for overseas duty in the Pacific, he was transferred to LSM-460. The vessel, he says, "never left the dock." Discharged at Camp Wallace in Galveston, Texas, Powell was released back into Naval Reserves, where he served for more than twenty-one years until his discharge in 1963. Soon after the war Powell earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Southwest Texas State Teachers College. On September 2, 1947 he married Dorotha Parker. (They would have two children.) He served as principal, teacher, and coach at Belcher High School in Belcher, Louisiana, then worked as principal at Lakeshore Junior High School and Northwood Junior-Senior High School. After retiring in 1973 he completed his doctoral degree at Centenary College, and served in its education department from 1978 until 2004.