Beetle Bailey of comic strip fame is known around the world but his origins began right here in Neosho.

Beetle Bailey of comic strip fame is known around the world but his origins began right here in Neosho.
On Thursday, 76 years to the day that Camp Crowder was dedicated, a tribute to Beetle's creator, Mort Walker, was held at Crowder College in Neosho.
Walker died earlier this year at the age of 94, leaving behind his legacy of Beetle Bailey, his view of Army life, and memories of Camp Swampy. Camp Swampy was Walker's fictional version of Camp Crowder, where he was stationed during World War II.
A large crowd gathered in The Wright Conference Center, in the Farber Building on the main Crowder Campus at noon on Thursday.  Crowder's Director of Public Information, Cindy Brown, greeted the guests which ranged from Crowder students to senior citizens.
"We're here today to pay tribute to an icon in the Camp Crowder and Crowder College history," Brown said.
Since college president Dr. Jennifer Methvin was unable to attend the event, Brown stepped up in her place.
Four speakers offered their personal insight into Walker, Camp Swampy, and Crowder.
The first to speak was Crowder social science division chair Keith Zoromski.
"Thank you for being here today and especially today, April 12, because 76 years ago, the dedication of Camp Crowder took place close to this very spot,” he said.
Zoromski recalled reading the Beetle Bailey comic strip during childhood.
"I grew up like many of you, reading the Sunday funnies," he told the audience. "Beetle Bailey always stood out to me because it reminded me of my grandfather. He always said, 'Grandson, I fought like heck but they drafted me anyway'. Doesn't that sound like something Beetle would say?"
Zoromski shared the story of how Walker was inspired to call his fictional Army base Camp Swampy, describing how one day the men woke up to find water in the barracks. They thought perhaps they would have a free day but instead, the soldiers found themselves helping with sandbags to contain the waters.
"That day gave him inspiration to call it (the post) Camp Swampy in the comic strip," he said.
Those who attended the event received a commemorative card with an original Mort Walker drawing and Cindy Branscum, former Crowder Director of Institutional Advancement, explained how it came about.
"We developed this little cartoon," she said. "That's why I contacted him, to see if he would do a little drawing of how we got from Camp Crowder to Camp Swampy to Crowder College. We had this (the cartoon) made for the college and to tie the decades together."
Rodney Bechdoldt, representing Boy Scout Troop 43, along with his son, Daniel Bechdoldt, shared the history of the Scout Camporees held at Crowder, beginning in 1991. The tradition has continued with the most recent Camporee held last September. Anywhere from 800 to 1,000 Boy and Cub Scouts have camped on the site.
"How many kids would like to say they camped on a military base?" Bechdoldt asked.
The final speaker, Kay Hively, is a well-known local author, historian and writer who penned a book, “Red, Hot And Dusty” about Camp Crowder with a cover drawn by Mort Walker.
"This brought back a lot of memories," Hively said when she stepped up to the podium. "In 1983, I was in graduate school and I had to write a thesis."
Hively stated if she had been single, she might have traveled to Africa or Egypt to research her thesis but since she was married with a son, she had to look closer to home.
"I looked around Neosho and I chose Camp Crowder," Hively stated. "In 1983 there were a lot of people who remembered Camp Crowder, they served here, they helped to build it, they worked here, or just came out to the dances."
She learned that the camp had a daily newspaper, The Message, and purchased three rolls of microfilm with the publication.
"I used these sources and I interviewed people in town who had some affiliation with Crowder," she said.
Many expressed an interest to read her finished work.
"I got my thesis written and turned in at Pitt State (PSU)," Hively remembered. "It was 400 pages so I decided to turn it into a book. I wanted something military for the cover. I contacted Mr. Walker and he agreed to do the cover, which has my favorite characters on the cover."
The book, according to Hively, sold like hotcakes and still sells today.
"It's been a good thing. To this day, I still get requests (for it) from people whose grandfather served here,” said Hively.
Hively explained where the title of her book originated.
"Red, Hot and Dusty came from a camp show that the men put on," she said.
Speaking about her book, Hively also said, "It has been one of the great joys of my life. Camp Crowder was so important to this town and it changed the town. It's been a wonderful ride."
Robin Wolven, who is in charge of the Herb and Barbara Schade Rare Book Collection at the Lee Library on campus, had a table featuring Mort Walker's private scrapbook and other books pertinent to Camp Swampy. A ribbon cutting for the Rare Book Collection also took place.
Brown ended the event by asking for a moment of silence. "We would be remiss if we did not take a moment of silence for Mort Walker, for all he's done for Camp Crowder, Camp Swampy and the college."
The transition from Camp Crowder to Crowder College and the legacy of the fictional Camp Swampy is represented in Walker's artwork that bridges the decades, on display at the event and reproduced on the commemorative cards provided for those who attended, Marching To Our Goal.
Walker's influence remains strong, most of all in Neosho where Camp Swampy and Beetle Bailey have deep roots and ties to the community through Crowder College.