Lt Col James Rieger and namesake armoryJames E. Rieger was instrumental in the establishment and training of a National Guard company in Kirksville. He was lauded a hero in World War I after leading a charge to capture a critical hill during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On Sept. 9, 2022, Rieger will be inducted into the Missouri National Guard Hall of Fame in the armory that bears his name.

World War I hero to be inducted into Missouri National Guard Hall of Fame 

By Jeremy Amick
via the News Tribune newspaper (MO) web site 

While serving on the front lines in France during World War I, Lt. Col. James Rieger might have avoided direct threats to his safety by ordering subordinates to perform dangerous tasks.

Yet this dedicated officer, who spent years of his own time training a group of National Guardsmen in Kirksville, led his soldiers from the front, thus earning him the unwavering respect of his troops and the second highest combat award.

Born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1874, Rieger was but 6 years old when his family moved to Missouri. They established their new home on a small farm near Kirksville, and it was there a young Rieger embraced the pursuit of educational opportunities while also being instilled with a rural work ethic.

"James E Rieger began his education in the public schools of Peoria, continuing the same in the county schools of Adair County ... and in the State Normal School," wrote Walter Barlow Stevens in Volume 3 of his historical compilation "Missouri the Center State: 1821-1915."

He added, "He then entered the University of Missouri at Columbia, from which he was graduated with the degree of L.L.B in 1897. When he was nineteen years of age, he began to assist his father with the work on the farm during his summer vacations, attending the State Normal School and later the university during the winter sessions."

While attending the university in Columbia, Rieger took classes in tactics and developed an unabated interest in military affairs. Following his graduation, he returned to Kirksville to practice law and served two years as the county's prosecuting attorney. In 1901, he married his fiancée, Alma Wray. The couple were devout Baptists, actively serving in their local congregation.

His commitment to his wife and career as an attorney was paralleled by his interest in all things military, eventually resulting in his enlistment as a private and working his way up to captain of Company C, 4th Infantry Regiment of the Missouri National Guard.

Through his leadership, evenings spent in uncompensated training and the dedication of the soldiers under his command, his company acquired the reputation of being one the most efficient in the state. 

Edgar White described Rieger in the June 13, 1919, edition of Christian Advocate as a country lawyer who "in the trial of cases ... was gentle, good-natured, always deferring to the other side with courtesy. For years he had command of a company of the National Guard ... and it was notable that while other companies sometimes got tired and lost interest, (his) men were always enthusiastic, always ready."

In Volume II of the "Centennial History of Missouri: 1820-1921," Walter Stevens wrote of Rieger, "When friends intimated that Captain Rieger might be giving too much time to the military, the reply would be, 'I'll study law all right, but I've got to be ready for war.'"

Read the entire article on the News Tribune web site.

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