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Opinion: World War II veteran W.T. Donaldson

William T. Donaldson was born in 1921 in the family home on North Shallowford Road where the Dunwoody Emory Clinic sits today. Dr. Puckett came to the home for the delivery. W. T. Donaldson’s parents were Mattie Azilee Eison Donaldson and James W. Donaldson. I had the honor of meeting and interviewing World War II veteran W. T. Donaldson in 2011.

The location of the Donaldson home on North Shallowford meant that the children attended Chamblee School, which included elementary and high school all in the same location. Back then, school went through grade eleven. 

The Donaldsons were dairy farmers, delivering their milk to Atlanta. When Mr. Donaldson was old enough to drive, he would deliver milk in a Chevrolet pickup truck, rising early in the morning to make deliveries before high school. His first class each morning was a study period, so being a little late didn’t matter. 

The family grew corn and wheat on the farm and took it to the Cheek mill for grinding. The Cheek mills and cotton gin were located in the area of the southeast corner of Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road.


Cousins Fred Donaldson, left, and W.T. Donaldson gather at a 2009 family reunion held at Donaldson-Bannister Farm. W.T. Donaldson died in 2015. Fred Donaldson died in 2022.

As a young boy, Mr. Donaldson attended the Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church, which was the church of his mother’s family. Church services were not held every Sunday, because the preachers travelled and delivered sermons at more than one church. Preachers would be hosted for the night by a local family.   Mr. Donaldson recalls Pastor Bartow Phillips of Ebenezer staying overnight with his family.

When the Dunwoody Methodist church built a new parsonage, Mr. Donaldson was hired by Mr. Marchman to help with the framing. When the parsonage was complete, all the church and community were invited to a dinner on the ground.

In later years, W.T. Donaldson visited Winters Chapel Methodist Church and that is where he met his future wife, Lillian Grace Robbs. Her friends dared her to sit next to him on the church pew. They married in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1943 during World War II.

Mr. Donaldson was working at the Cochran base in Macon when he received his draft notice. At first, he was deferred because of the necessity of the work he was doing. Later, he was inducted at Fort McPherson here in Atlanta. From there he went to Miami Beach for basic training and then Sioux Falls, South Dakota for radio school.

He served with the Army Air Corps in the Pacific as a radio operator on B-24’s, beginning in Darwin, Australia.  This was soon after Darwin had been bombed by the Japanese. Mr. Donaldson went on many missions, but the longest lasted 16 hours.  The mission involved flying over Borneo and Java. His outfit fought in the Battle of Coral Seas and New Guinea and received commendations for their service.

After the war, W. T. Donaldson returned to Dunwoody and his father gave him 5 acres of land on North Shallowford Road near where The Columns at Lake Ridge Apartments are today.

He and his wife and family lived there for twenty years before moving to Sandy Springs.

The Donaldson Bannister Home at the corner of Vermack Road and Chamblee Dunwoody Road was built in 1870 by W. T. Donaldson’s great grandfather, W. J. Donaldson.

W.T. Donaldson died on Dec. 4, 2015, and is buried at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs.

Email Valerie at or visit her website at

Past Tense

Award-winning author Valerie Biggerstaff is a longtime columnist for Appen Media and the Dunwoody Crier. She lives in Sandy Springs.