In looking for an All-American hero to represent Huntington, or any other community for that matter, the search needs only reach the name of Harold Dean Shultz. A top student, star athlete, war hero, dedicated teacher and devoted husband and father, Hal Shultz filled every one of those throughout his remarkable life with uncommon humility and dignity.
Born in Huntington in 1930 and raised on small farms, Shultz played football and basketball, ran track and played tennis at Huntington High School. He was the top scorer and all-league player on a conference championship football team and starting forward on a Viking basketball team that went 24-3 and won a regional title in his senior year.
Shultz also excelled in the classroom, where he was 1947 valedictorian in a class of 135. His accomplishments earned him a prestigious appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point. He also caught the eye of legendary Army football coach “Colonel” Earl Blaik, who sent him a personal congratulations on the appointment. Blaik would make a lasting impression on Shultz, who carried Blaik’s teachings with him the rest of his life.
Shultz continued to shine at West Point. As a defensive back on the football team, he led the team in interceptions in 1949 with six. In the 1948 game against Navy, a depleted corps of runners forced Shultz to sub in at halfback, where he scored a touchdown in a 21-21 tie against the Midshipmen.
On the track, Shultz set an Army record in the high hurdles. He graduated 11th in general order of merit in a senior class of 475 in 1951, and earned the Army Athletic Association Trophy, presented each year to the top athlete in the graduating class. His classroom excellence earned him a nomination to compete for a Rhodes Scholarship.
Shultz chose to enter the United States Air Force, and following graduation was commissioned a second lieutenant. He completed pilot training and served time as a fighter pilot, including a stint in the Korean War. He returned to the United States and earned a Master of Arts degree in History at Stanford, the first of his three master’s degrees.
Shultz served as instructor and professor at the Air Force Academy for four years beginning in 1957. He taught history and also coached on the school’s track team.
In 1961, Shultz returned to flying, first based in Europe, and later deploying to Vietnam. In one stretch of 101 days, Shultz flew 93 missions. In a four-month period in 1968, Shultz was called on to provide cover for downed pilots on three occasions. Under intense ground fire each time, he helped pinpoint the location of the trapped fliers, where his flying skills and delivered ordnance provided the opportunity for helicopters to reach and rescue the pilots.
For his actions, Shultz received a Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Cross awards. He later earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service as executive officer for planning and effectiveness of the Tactical Air Control Center in operations from June 1968 to February 1969. He also was awarded a Purple Heart and Vietnam Gallantry Cross among other decorations during his military service in Vietnam.
Back in the United States, Shultz served as base commander of the 3560th Air Base Group in Texas. He retired from the Air Force in 1974 after earning additional Masters degrees in business administration and education. He and his family moved to Maryville, Tennessee, the hometown of his wife, Dorothy. Shultz started teaching math at Eagleton Junior High School, a position he found just as fulfilling as his military service. “One of the greatest rewards,” he said. “is to hear a student say ‘now I understand.’ ”
Sadly, his second career was short-lived. Hal Shultz died on December 17, 1978, at just 48 years of age.