William E. McLawhorn was born in Lenoir County, June 6, 1916. He attended various schools in Lenoir County, including Contentnea School. He later moved to Newport News, Virginia, where he was employed as a taxi driver.
One September 16, 1940, Congress passed the Selective Service Act. Rather than waiting to be drafted, William joined the United States Army on October 16, 1940 at Richmond, Virginia. On January 23, 1941, he was assigned to Company M, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and transferred to Schofield Barracks, Territory of Hawaii.
On December 7, 1941, during the sneak Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks was also attacked. After several months of retraining, the 25th Division was sent to Guadalcanal to assist the Marine Corps in capturing the Solomon Islands. William arrived on Christmas day, 1942. In addition to the Guadalcanal Campaign, he participated in the Northern Solomon Campaign, the Central Pacific Campaign and the Luzon Campaign.
During the Northern Solomon Campaign, Sergeant McLawhorn contracted Malaria and spent several months in a hospital in New Guinea. After recouping, he rejoined his unit. In December 1944, the 25th Division joined other Army units in the liberation of Luzon, one of the Philippine Islands. After four years and five months, Sergeant McLawhorn returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After four years and ten months, he was honorably discharged on July 23, 1945.
His awards included the Combat Infantry Badge, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars, the National Defense Service Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal.
Upon returning home, he married Ruby Hocutt of Kinston. They had two children, Larry and Judy. In addition, they were parents to his niece Merle Pate Cooper and nephew Donald Pate. William died December 13, 1974 and is interred at West View Cemetery in Kinston, North Carolina.
SGT. William E. Mc Lawhorn was the oldest of four sons of Herman Mc Lawhorn who have worn the uniform of the U. S. Army. The others are Herman H., Douglas and Kenneth Mc Lawhorn.