History in Focus: Lewis ‘Dude’ Dent — the ‘Dude’
Lewis “Dude” Dent personified every bit of his unique nickname. He was a scholar, celebrated athlete, war hero and a young man with a high degree of integrity. Each spring Moffat County High School recalls his memory by naming one young man and woman as recipients of the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award as outstanding student athlete of the year.
Dent’s picture sits quietly in a glass case near the Moffat County High School theater along with an engraved plaque that lists his accomplishments in short staccato statements. But this dusty testimony doesn’t do justice to Dent’s amazing life.
Lewis Dent was born in Ord, Nebraska in 1922. His family moved to Craig where he came of age and graduated from Craig High School in 1939. While in high school, he was an excellent scholar athlete. He was named an all-state fullback and earned a scholarship to attend Colorado A & M (now Colorado State University).
At CSU he continued his excellence in academics and athletics. He earned three letters in football, two in basketball and three in track. In 1941 he was named to the Big 7 all-conference football team. That same year, he met Mildred Bach at a postgame dance to celebrate the team’s victory against the University of Wyoming. They quickly married and had two children, Richard (1942) and Cheryl (1944).
In 1943 Dent was named the best all-around athlete in the Mountain States Conference. He also joined the Army ROTC reserves and was a physical training and commando tactics instructor on campus.
While at CSU, the football team was also racially integrated. Dent became friends with John Mosley, the first African-American to play football at the university. In later interviews, Mosley spoke highly of Dent, who helped him face discrimination on campus and during games. Dent would intervene when other teams baited Mosley into fights in an attempt to get him kicked out.
Constantly in need of fresh replacement soldiers, World War II soon called upon Dent to fulfill his officer’s commission. Despite a busy schedule filled with the excitement of athletics, academics and family life, Dent was only four credits short of completing his mechanical engineering degree. Lieutenant Dent was shipped to Europe and served as a forward military observer for the 94th Armored Field Battalion as the Allies pounded the Nazis back toward Germany.
On Aug. 25, 1944, it was Dent’s turn in the rotation of forward observers. That night, according to accounts from fellow soldiers, Dent had a fearful premonition of impending death. Near Troyes, France, out in front of the advancing U.S. forces, Dent relayed firing coordinates to the artillery. Suddenly, a scream was heard and his radio went silent — a Nazi bullet had found its mark. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. On the same day, Paris, France was finally liberated from four years of harsh Nazi occupation.
Fortunately for us, Dent’s story didn’t fade away. In 1957, MCHS inaugurated the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award for the best senior scholar athlete. On May 26 at the Clarion Inn & Suites, this wonderful tradition will continue. The combination of reaching back to Dent’s inspiring life to motivate future greatness in our youth is an extremely moving event, to say the least.
Dent’s remarkable life, cut short by the ravages of World War II, will also be enshrined for all to remember on the new World War II memorial sponsored by the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
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