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John R. Ruggles III


John Richard Ruggles III (Oct. 23, 1944 - Feb. 28, 1968) the only son of John Richard Ruggles Jr. and Gale Fleming Ruggles, and had a sister, Christine. Sports played a prominent role in Ruggles’ youth. He was an award-winning swimmer and made a hole-in-one when he was 15. But baseball was his greatest love. Ruggles was a left-handed first baseman for the South Knoxville Legion All-Stars Little League team. In 1957, they won the district and state Little League championships and the Southern Sectional Little League title before losing to Owensboro, Ky., in the Southern Regional Little League tournament in Louisville, Ky. Had they won the Louisville tournament, Ruggles and his teammates would have been headed to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.

Ruggles excelled in sports after overcoming polio, which he battled for three months as a third-grader at Bearden Elementary and left him with some muscular impairment. He graduated from Bearden High School in 1962, and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1968. Ruggles was enrolled in the University of Tennessee Law School, when he volunteered for the Marines. Upon completion of OCS was commissioned as a 2d Lieutenant (Reserve) in Quantico VA. He arrived in Vietnam on December 11 where he was assigned for duty and served with Company K, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st MARDIV (Rein) FMF.

On February 26 the Battalion began participating on Phase I of Operation Houston, a search and clear mission south of the Phu Bai Combat Base along Highway I in Thua Thien Province. On February 28, Company K was searching the area in the vicinity of Nui Da Kep (Mountain) when there were three rapid explosions. Multiple mines had been wired together were detonated killing three and wounding four Marines. One of the casualties was Second Lt. Ruggles who was killed in action by multiple fragmentation wounds from a hostile explosive device. John was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and is buried at Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, TN. In May 2001, a Little League baseball field at Lakeshore Park was named Ruggles Field to honor his service and love for baseball.

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  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Branch: Marine Corps
  • UT Major/Affiliation: UT Law School, 1968
  • Hometown: Knoxville