RIO GRANDE — A University of Rio Grande professor is bringing world history to a local level with a new book to be released next month.
Dr. Samuel Wilson, professor of history, has spent several years uncovering the life story of a World War I pilot from Ironton — Capt. William C. Lambert.
Lambert joined Royal Air Corps in Canada in 1917 before the United States entered the war. With 22 victories, Lambert became one of the Great War’s top American aces. A century after the war, Wilson’s book, “Bill Lambert: World War I Flying Ace,” will be available for a new generation to learn his story.
“I have an interest in military history and ‘The Great War,’ so when another Rio professor, Ivan Tribe, asked me to do an article for a local history journal he was working on, I learned about Bill Lambert,” Wilson said. “I did research in Ironton and during that process, saw the potential for a book.”
During his research, Wilson met Bill Martin, a friend of Lambert’s during his later years. He said he felt called to write the book after Martin gave him personal documents he received from Lambert.
“After Lambert’s death, Martin saved the papers, letters and other documents that told his life story,” Wilson said. “He gave them to me for my research, making this book possible. These documents allowed me to dig deeper into how being a pilot affected the rest of his life.”
Wilson said, as a professor in southeastern Ohio and a historian, he feels preserving Lambert’s story for a new generation to learn the effects of “The Great War” on the life of a hero from their own region is important.
“In Lambert’s time, museums and historical societies were more interested in the material belongings such as his uniform and even his furniture, but papers like these tell the stories of war heroes and deserve to be saved for future generations. I want to make sure that happens,” Wilson said. “It’s important for us to understand the tragedy that was the First World War and that most major events of this past century have their roots in it. This book is the story of an individual from our area and who he was in a war that dehumanized people.”
Wilson said he is glad to see the book going to press and stores so soon after he finished writing the story.
“I’m very fortunate the process for publishing the book has gone smoothly,” Wilson said. “It hasn’t even been six months since I submitted the book and we’re about to publish. McFarland has done a wonderful job and I’m thankful for their efforts.”
The book goes to press next week and will be available in September. Book signings will take place at Unger’s Shoe Store and Briggs Lawrence County Library in Ironton, and Bossard Memorial Library in Gallipolis as soon as the book is available in stores.