The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Clovis' Ira Pottard dies at 97


February 23, 2020

File photo: Tony Bullocks

Ira Pottard waves to the crowd during Clovis' 2013 Veterans Day Parade.

CLOVIS - Ira Pottard was well known in Clovis as one of the oldest remaining buffalo soldiers. His family knew him better as "Pops," a father and grandfather who loved playing dominoes and making music with his keyboard and guitar.

Pottard, 97, died last Sunday at his Retirement Ranch home.

Pottard was born in Greenville, Texas to Sinclair Pottard and Almeta Williams. He was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 19, serving from 1942 to 1949 as a member of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, a group of U.S. Army units comprised of African-American soldiers.

Members of the segregated units were commonly known as buffalo soldiers, a name dating to frontier days. Some say the Native American tribes called them buffalo soldiers in honor of their resilience.

Pottard, who later worked for the Santa Fe railroad in Clovis, served in the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) as a medic and veterinarian for the Army's horses. The CBI was an area of thick jungle and vegetation unsuited for most vehicles and more easily traversed on horseback. He reached the rank of second lieutenant before being honorably discharged.

After leaving the military, Pottard said he was unable to find work as a veterinarian and was only offered manual labor jobs. He ended up serving another 10 years in the National Guard and worked for the governor in Santa Fe before eventually settling down in Clovis, working as a maintenance man for the school district.

Along the way, Pottard married and had a daughter, Shirley Handy.

After his first wife's passing, Pottard remarried in 2001 to Willetta Pottard, who said she first met Pottard in 1962 when he first moved to Clovis.

Willetta said Pottard was always sharing stories from his buffalo soldier days, was proud of his service and got along well with her family.

"He liked to play dominoes and stuff like that all the time," Willetta said. "After mealtime we'd always sit down and play dominoes and call that our dessert. We really had a lot of fun together, just sitting around and talking."

Willetta said Pottard rarely missed out on a chance to celebrate his service and share his experiences. She said he often met with people wanting to interview him or honor him and he was an active participant in many veterans events in the area, such as the annual Veterans Day parade where he served as grand marshal. He also spoke at many graduations throughout his lifetime.

Selmus J. Price, long time coordinator of the Ethnic Fair, first met Pottard in 1996 and in 1997 showcased him in the fair with a booth. During the showcase, Congressman Bill Redmond stopped by and spoke with Pottard, later organizing a ceremony with the governor to honor Pottard on Aug. 4, 1997, on Pottard's birthday. The New Mexico House later passed a bill to honor Pottard and his fellow buffalo soldiers in the month of February.

The New Mexico chapter of the National Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Club also made a trip from Albuquerque to Clovis to visit Pottard last year.

Even when his hearing and sight started to go and he was forced to use a walker to get around, Pottard would always go to events when someone offered to take him. While Pottard's health continued to deteriorate, Price said he would often visit Pottard over the last three years.

"He was an outstanding individual and loved to be in the presence of anyone he could share his history with," Price said. "Being able to listen to his story and his history when it came up, he was an awesome individual."


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