|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
|Maurice Lee "Footsie" Britt|
June 29, 1919|
|Died||November 26, 1995
Little Rock, Arkansas
|Place of burial||National Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1941 - 1944|
|Unit||3rd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
|Other work||NFL football player
Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas
Maurice Lee "Footsie" Britt, Jr. (June 29, 1919 – November 26, 1995), was an American professional football player, World War II hero received the Medal of Honor, businessman, and Republican politician from Arkansas. He played for the Detroit Lions and later served from 1967-1971 as the seventh Lieutenant Governor of his home state during the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. Rockefeller and Britt were the first Republicans to have served in their state's top two offices since Reconstruction.
Born in Carlisle to Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Britt, Sr., Britt was reared in nearby Lonoke. He earned the nickname "Footsie" after winning a pair of shoes at a local fair as an adolescent. He was also known for his big feet. He graduated as the valedictorian of Lonoke High School and then entered the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he was supported by an athletic scholarship in both football and basketball. He earned an Army Reserve commission as a Second Lieutenant through Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps upon graduation. He received a bachelor of arts degree in 1941 and played football with the Lions during the 1941 season. He is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
World War II
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Britt entered the United States Army as a second lieutenant at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, in the 3rd Infantry Division (ID) in the 30th Infantry Regiment. He received a partial deferment to entering active duty until after the 1941 football season. He initially joined the 3rd ID and participated in coastal defense on the west coast of the United States.
As a platoon leader, he led his men on the morning of November 8, 1942, under General George S. Patton, Jr., in invading the French North African beaches at Fedela. The U.S. 30th Infantry came on shore quickly secured the left flank of the division on November 8 and silenced Fort Blondin in the process which had been firing on the naval forces lying off the Moroccan coast. By November 11, the 30th and 3rd Infantry Divisions had secured Casablanca. Britt led his men through the subsequent combat and campaigns in North Africa. He is jokingly remembered for "chasing Rommel across all of north Africa".
He continued to serve as a platoon leader as part of the "Joss" force[clarification needed] during Operation Husky, the amphibious invasion of Sicily. In Operation Husky, Britt led his platoon in numerous combat actions as the 3rd Infantry Division executed one of the longest foot marches in modern military history, from near Gela northward to Palermo. The regiment marched 54 miles in only 33 hours. Britt led his men through the combat and extensive marching from Palermo to Messina in Sicily.
In September 1943, Britt participated in Operation Avalanche, the amphibious landings in Salerno, Italy. This was his third amphibious assault of the war. By early October, the whole of southern Italy was in Allied hands, and the Allied armies faced the Volturno Line, the first of a series of prepared defensive lines running across Italy from which the Germans chose to fight delaying actions, giving ground slowly and buying time to complete their preparation of the Winter Line, their strongest defensive line south of Rome. Britt led his men in the river crossing on the Volturno River. During this engagement, he earned the Silver Star and the first of three Purple Hearts.
In February 1944, Britt was fighting in Italy. He was part of the initial invasion at Anzio, where he won a battlefield promotion to captain. On October 10, 1943, he did calisthenics to draw German fire at the battleground of Mignano, Italy, which his fellow soldiers referred to thereafter as "Britt's Junction". He managed to repel the Germans, but lost his right arm. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism. He also received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart. Britt was the first recipient of the top three combat decorations in a single war.
Medal of Honor citation
His Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Disdaining enemy hand grenades and close-range machine pistol, machinegun, and rifle, Lieutenant Britt inspired and led a handful of his men in repelling a bitter counterattack by approximately 100 Germans against his company positions north of Mignano, Italy, the morning of 10 November 1943. During the intense fire fight, Lt. Britt's canteen and field glasses were shattered; a bullet pierced his side; his chest, face, and hands were covered with grenade wounds. Despite his wounds, for which he refused to accept medical attention until ordered to do so by his battalion commander following the battle, he personally killed 5 and wounded an unknown number of Germans, wiped out one enemy machinegun crew, fired 5 clips of carbine and an undetermined amount of M1 rifle ammunition, and threw 32 fragmentation grenades. His bold, aggressive actions, utterly disregarding superior enemy numbers, resulted in capture of 4 Germans, 2 of them wounded, and enabled several captured Americans to escape. Lt. Britt's undaunted courage and prowess in arms were largely responsible for repulsing a German counterattack which, if successful, would have isolated his battalion and destroyed his company.
Post-war: Business and politics
After the war, he briefly attended the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville but left the institution to enter business. He spent twenty years working at a furniture manufacturing company and then running the Beautyguard Manufacturing Company, a producer of aluminum building products.
In 1966, he was elected lieutenant governor, when the incumbent Democrat, Nathan Green Gordon, did not seek reelection. He was re-elected in 1968 but did not seek a third term in 1970, having deferred to his friend and Little Rock neighbor, Sterling R. Cockrill, a Democrat-turned-Republican, who ran unsuccessfully on Winthrop Rockefeller's losing GOP ticket that year. Britt barely defeated the Democratic nominees, James H. Pilkinton of Hope in 1966 and Bill Wells in 1968. He was a lifelong Arkansas Republican, having been active in his state's Young Republicans in college. Neal Sox Johnson, the first paid executive director of the Arkansas GOP, said that he believed Rockefeller should have stepped down in 1970, and Britt should have been the gubernatorial nominee. Rockefeller was unseated that year by the Democrat Dale L. Bumpers. As Rockefeller and Britt left office, two legislative Republicans remained behind, State Senator Jim R. Caldwell and Representative Preston Bynum, both of Benton County in far northwestern Arkansas.
In 1986, Britt came out of political retirement to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. He polled only 3,116 votes (13.9 percent) to 13,831 ballots (61.9 percent) for former Governor Frank D. White. A third candidate, Wayne Lanier, received 4,576 votes (20.5 percent) in a low-turnout primary. White was thereafter defeated in the general election for a second time by future U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Britt was a leader in civic affairs too. He was past state chairman of the Crippled Children's Hospital, Easter Seals, and the Federal Executive Association. He was a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and received the National Collegiate Athletic Association Sports Achievement Award.
Britt died of heart failure in the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. He was one of two lieutenant governors in state history to lie in state in the State Capitol Rotunda, the other being Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, the son of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. The coffin was open, and Britt's military coat hung from the back of his favorite rocking chair, which was placed next to the body. His medals and a military cap were placed on a nearby table. An Army Sergeant stood at the head of the casket throughout the six hours that Britt lay in state.
Britt had three daughters, Andrea Schafer and Nancy McDurmont, both of Lonoke, and Patricia Anne Britt of Falls Church, Virginia; two sons, Maurice Lee Britt, III (born ca. 1950), and his wife, Dee Britt, of Royal, Arkansas, and Timothy Watson Britt (born ca. 1955) of Little Rock; one brother, B. A. Britt (born ca. 1925) of Carlisle; twelve grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Britt's wife died shortly before his own death. Britt was a distant cousin of the late Henry M. Britt of Hot Springs, the 1960 Republican gubernatorial nominee against Orval Eugene Faubus. He was a cousin to internationally known actress Dorothy Lamour. 
- Maurice Britt's decorations, Congressional Medal of Honor Society. (URL accessed April 28, 2006)
- Arkansas Lieutenant Governor, State of Arkansas.
- Cathy Kunzinger Urwin, Agenda for Reform: Winthrop Rockefeller as Governor of Arkansas, 1967-71 (Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 1991), p. 174
- "Maurice Britt". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Rachel O'Neal, "Arkansans pay their respects to Britt, ex-lieutenant governor", Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 29, 1995
- Britt obituary information, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 29, 1995
- "Encyclopedia of Arkansas". Retrieved October 4, 2010.
Nathan Green Gordon
|Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas
Maurice Lee "Footsie" Britt
Bob Cowley Riley