As a former POW in North Vietnam, Halyburton says prisoners were hungry to learn from one another, and he was able to add a lot to that process.
Born in Miami, Porter Halyburton ’63 was raised in Davidson. He always wanted to stay close to home for college because it was comfortable and familiar, so he received a liberal arts education almost literally in his backyard. He points to his classes with the late English professor Charlie Lloyd as demonstrating the essence of the college. “It was a joy to go to his class every time because I knew it would be something different and unexpected,” he said. “He could take whatever was happening in the news and relate it to literature. It was an exhilarating and exciting sort of experience. He brought life together in his subject.”

Following graduation, Halyburton entered Pre-Flight for the United States Navy and was commissioned in February 1964. Shot down in North Vietnam on Oct. 17, 1965, Halyburton was held prisoner in Hanoi for seven and a half years and was released Feb. 12, 1973 during Operation Homecoming. For 18 months, however, he was thought to have died in the crash, and was even memorialized at a funeral in Davidson.

“So that’s kind of a formative experience,” he said. “Four years at Davidson and seven years in the slammer. But I would say I was fortunate to be one of the few liberal arts educated people there. Mostly everybody else had technical or aeronautical engineering backgrounds. They didn’t have much knowledge about literature and poetry and the arts and so on. We were so hungry to learn from one another, and I was able to add a lot to that process.”

Halyburton retired from the United States Navy as a Commander in 1984. He later worked as Professor of Strategy, Head Electives Division, ADP Manager for the College of Continuing Education at the U.S. Naval War College. His awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars and seven Air Medals.

“I have been served well by my liberal arts education, from my time in Hanoi to my time as a professor,” he said. “And I think it’s even more critical in today’s so-called digital age. There’s so much emphasis on technology and making a lot of money, and I think people forget what life’s all about. A liberal arts education broadens your horizons, and you realize everything is connected. It’s about literature, history, philosophy … those are the things that make a whole and complete life.”

Halyburton and his wife, Marty, married in Dec. 1963. The couple has three children and one grandson.

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