George Oscar Cress was taken suddenly, after a fall. He remained young to the last. After the first shock of his passing, those who knew and therefore loved him feel that his life was triumphant proof that “Old soldiers never die!” We can never lose him.
Graduating youngest in the Class of 1884, Lieutenant Cress was assigned to the old Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s regiment in the Dakotas. There followed a distinguished cavalry career, culminating in the organization of a cavalry regiment for service in World War I. Cavalry assignments were interspersed with staff and school details. In 1899 he transported horses by sailing ship to Manila. He then won distinction as an indomitable fighter under General Lawton in Luzon. In 1911 he went to the Army War College. In 1916 he was Inspector General for General Pershing in Mexico. In World War I he was made Brigadier General. He was commended by the Chief of Field Artillery for special and unusual zeal in learning artillery technique. He was retired in 1926 and his farewell message was written personally by the Chief of Staff of the Army, who knew and loved him.
After World War I General Cress was asked by the Adjutant General of the Army to administer the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, which needed special attention. It is characteristic that he cheerfully accepted this assignment which drew him away from the pathways of ambition; and won not only the profuse gratitude of the Adjutant General but also a nation-wide acclaim of civilian prison authorities. One of these exclaimed that he had expected to find an Army prison rather grim, whereas under General Cress, the Leavenworth institution was an example for American prisons, because of wise humanitarianism. As a result, when he retired, General Cress was offered positions such as Warden of Massachusetts State Prison, and Superintendent, House of Refuge New York. His subsequent interest in the problems of the human delinquent never ceased, and he contributed significant articles on the related subject of character-building for youth. He could never resist sympathizing with the down-trodden.
From cadet days onward General Cress had outstanding records. There is overwhelming evidence that his commanders saw in him a man who was never self-seeking, and always self-giving. He was superior in devotion and sacrifice; preeminently a man of character, with a character second to none. His life could be summed up in the words of one who served under him:—”Whatever an officer, gentleman, Christian, and friend should be, he was!’’ In 1886 Lieutenant Cress married Dora Dean, who rode west to his frontier station in a two-horse carriage, and was his faithful partner for sixty-eight years. He is survived by his beloved wife; their son, Major General James B. Cress, Class of 1914; their daughter Cornelia Cress, prominent horsewoman in California; and by a host of friends and admirers.
True son of West Point we salute thee!
—Bradford Grethen Chynoweth, Class of 1912