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Solomon Taylor, World War II veteran, volunteer barber and refinery worker, dies at 98

Solomon Taylor served as a convoy trucker in World War II, worked at the Kennecott copper refinery, and later cut hair at Tally’s Barbershop and for the bedridden and elderly.
Solomon Taylor served as a convoy trucker in World War II, worked at the Kennecott copper refinery, and later cut hair at Tally’s Barbershop and for the bedridden and elderly.

Solomon Taylor, a retired copper refinery worker, World War II veteran and barber, died of heart disease Jan. 17 at a Baltimore Veterans Assisted Living facility. The former West Baltimore resident was 98.

Born in Charles Town, West Virginia, he was the son of Beverly Taylor and his wife, Mary Ann Douglass. He attended Charles Town public schools.

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He joined the Army during World War II at age 20 and was initially stationed in England and later served in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. He served in what became known as the Red Ball Express, a convoy trucking system. The trucks were marked with red circles.

In a video he made when honored by the Ravens as a Hometown Hero in November, Mr. Taylor said that while driving “I got lost two or three times. I was never scared. I drove all kind of trucks and I was fascinated by them.”

Said his son-in-law, Kenneth Younger of Millersville: “My father had no drivers’ license and could not drive when he joined the Army. They gave him an hour and a half training and he was behind the wheel of a big truck. He liked to say he was stripping the gears of the best of them.”

Mr. Taylor’s unit was composed of many African American soldiers who transported troops and supplies associated with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in France and Belgium. Mr. Taylor served in the Ardennes Forest and Bastogne, Belgium, regions.

Mr. Taylor told family members that 75% of the Red Ball Express drivers and personnel were black. When a 1952 film, “Red Ball Express,” was made, most of the actors were white.

“His proudest accomplishment during his time in Europe was not combat," Mr. Younger said. "He was most proud of giving part of his meager C rations to poverty-stricken European children he observed eating food from trash cans. He stated that the sheer poverty of these children broke his heart.”

Mr. Younger also said Mr. Taylor declined to speak of his combat experience during World War II.

Mr. Taylor left the military as a technician 5 and bought a home on Grantley Street. He married Ray Stewart, a homemaker, in the early 1950s.

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He worked at the Kennecott Refinery for more than three decades.

After the death of his wife in 1973, Mr. Taylor, raised his daughter, Michelle Younger, now of Millersville, as a single parent.

He worked for many years at Tally’s Barbershop on Longwood Street in West Baltimore.

“That job gave him a chance to talk with all the guys,” said his son-in-law. “He spent a great deal of time serving his community, which included helping his fellow veterans. He would go to the veterans’ hospital and nursing homes to cut the hair of the bedridden.”

Mr. Taylor also visited the homes of elderly church members to trim hair.

He was a deacon emeritus at Union Baptist Church and a member of the Disabled American Veterans.

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After rooting for the old Baltimore Colts, he became a Washington Redskins fan.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m. at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a brother, the Rev. Donald Taylor of Jacksonville, Florida; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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