Lloyd a master of Morse, weather wizard

October 05, 1997


Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Laurence W. Lloyd Sr. gained local notoriety over the decades for his meticulous weather records, but family members who gathered on Sunday to mourn his passing recalled a man who was so much more.

Lloyd, who died on Saturday at age 93, was a witness to some of the nation's most historic events. And as a Western Union Telegraph Co. employee for 43 years, he was often the first witness.

Lloyd's son, Laurence Lloyd Jr., recalled a number of stories his father told him. In 1941, Lloyd was working at his Charles Town office when a bulletin came over the telegraph.


"Flash! Flash! Japs attacked Pearl Harbor."

Lloyd, 63, said his father sent a message back asking the operator if it was a drill.

"She said, `No, this is real,'" he said.

Lloyd said his father rushed into a local restaurant and demanded that the radio be turned on. Ten minutes later, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation.

In the days before radio and television, Lloyd said his father kept residents abreast of the World Series. After each half-inning, he would receive a score update over the telegraph and then post the results in his second-floor office window for dozens of fans gathered outside.

Lloyd said his father was also handy with electronics. He said he built the second radio in Jefferson County, before they were available in stores.

During his years at Western Union, Lloyd dispatched race results by Morse Code from the Charles Town Races and sent reporters' stories back to their newspapers from John F. Kennedy's vacation home in Middleburg, Va.

Lloyd's daughter, Ellen Akin, 60, said her father developed a bookkeeping system that Western Union replicated throughout the company. They offered to promote him, but she said he refused to move.

"He would rather live in Charles Town and cut grass than live anywhere else in the world. That was kind of annoying to us as children at times," Akin said. "It was a comfortable place for him. He'd known people all his life."

For all his other accomplishments, though, Lloyd's children said their father likely will always be best remembered for the weather. He kept records for more than 60 years and received a number of awards from the state and the National Weather Service.

Laurence Lloyd Jr. recalled his father telling him that he had been mesmerized by the weather since he was 12 or 13.

"He looked up at the sky and saw the clouds and wondered what they were and why they were there. He read and read and read some more," he said.

Lloyd said that interest remained until the final days. Recently, he said his father read everything he could get his hands on about El Nino and studied the effects that the Pacific phenomenon had on past winters.

Akin said her father and father-in-law had a number of similarities. Both were ham radio operators. Both built radios in the very early days of the device. And both were expert Morse Code operators. But Akin said her father was better than most.

"My father knew Morse Code like no one else. My father was so fast that my father-in-law said, `I can't read it. I can't keep up,'" she said. "Few could."

Lloyd said his father oversaw messengers for the civil defense during World War II. It was his job to personally deliver casualty messages to Jefferson County families, he said.

Akin said her father struggled with hearing since an infection during his teenage years damaged his ears. But his hearing did not stop him for singing for 70 years in the Zion Episcopal Church choir. She said he remained devoted to the church.

Akin added that deafness sometimes had its perks: "He used it to his advantage. He would only hear what he wanted to hear much of the time."

But both children agreed their father's hearing belied a rapier-sharp mind.

"You would look at any storefront in Charles Town and he could tell you what (used to be) there" years ago, Lloyd said.

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