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Major General Will Hill Tankersley served as Chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board from 1985 – 1989.
General Tankersley exemplified the attributes of service, loyalty, and, perhaps most precious to him, duty. He leaves behind an adoring family, generations of friends and admirers, and a legacy that will persist long after his passing.
He was born February 28, 1928, to a family with deep roots in Alabama. In fact, his grandfather settled around what would become Montgomery in 1815, 4 years before Alabama achieved statehood. When only a boy, his father, Felix Marcus Tully, passed away, leaving him in the care of his mother, ``Miss Corrie'' Melton Hill. His paternal grandfather, Judge Will Hill, became a father-figure to young Will Hill, ensuring his mother and her young family was provided for and that Will Hill and his brothers received an education. Despite facing these difficult odds, Will Hill attended the Citadel and Marion Military Institute before gaining acceptance to West Point, from which he graduated in 1950. Soon after graduation, before his class had even gone through basic training, he was sent into combat in Korea, serving six campaigns as a combat infantryman. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry Badge. The West Point Class of 1950 has the tragic distinction of suffering through some of the heaviest wartime losses in the history of the academy; he was one of only six of his classmates in his regiment not killed, wounded, or captured. In fact, at the age of 23, then Lieutenant Tankersley had the unfortunate distinction of being the oldest living infantry lieutenant in the 19th Infantry Regiment. It was in 1953 while stationed at Fort Benning that he met Theda Clark Ball, also of Montgomery, whom he soon married. She was the love of his life, and her special place in his heart remained after her death in 2013, after almost 60 years of marriage.
Once leaving the regular Army, Will Hill returned to Montgomery and joined the investment bank Sterne Agee & Leach. His 45 years at Sterne Agee saw him rise to the top of the organization, becoming a vice president, board member, senior vice president, chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors, president of the company, and finally the vice chairman emeritus for life. He retired in October of 2003.
General Tankersley's dedication to principle and sense of civic duty to his city, State, and country are well known. Among his many distinctions are Montgomery Citizen of the Year for 1992; two terms as chairman of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce; chairman of the Montgomery Area Committee of 100; chairman of Auburn University College of Business Advisory Counsel; the distinguished alumnus from Auburn University College of Business; and Marion Military Institute Alumnus of the Year. General Tankersley also served on the board of visitors of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base; as president of the Montgomery Rotary Club; a member of the board of directors for the Montgomery Academy; a member of the board of directors for the Tukabatchee Area Counsel Boy Scouts of America; senior warden of St. John's Episcopal Church--having served 5 years on its vestry; one of eight directors of the Governor's Management Improvement Program for Alabama; and chairman of the Education Committee on Community Government.
After Active Duty, Will Hill remained in the U.S. Army Reserve, eventually rising to the rank of major general. He served as the civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for the State of Alabama; was nominated as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs by President Ford, serving 3 years; was appointed during the George H.W. Bush administration as chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense on matters concerning the National Guard and Reserves; and was appointed in 2001 by George W. Bush as one of 11 commissioners on the American Battle Monuments Commission.
MG Will Hill Tankersley passed away in November 28, 2015, at the age of 87. He exemplified the attributes of service, loyalty, and, perhaps most precious to him, duty. He leaves behind an adoring family, generations of friends and admirers, and a legacy that will persist long after his passing.
General Tankersley is survived by three children: his daughter, Theda, and sons Will Hill, Jr., and David. I mentioned earlier the high value General Tankersely placed on the concept of duty and of meeting the requirements imposed upon those bound to it. He not only lived a life bound by this code but proselytized its virtues to others.