FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 7, 2021) -- Take a survey of patrons going in and out of Fort Drum’s Robert C. McEwen Library and Education Complex, and most people are probably unaware of the building’s full name or origin.
That is the purpose of the “Around and About” series – to highlight the names of different sites and structures on post and to provide a little insight into the history behind them.
The library was dedicated on Sept. 1, 2000, in memory of Robert C. McEwen, a St. Lawrence County native who was elected to both the New York State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives for a combined 27 years of public service.
McEwen enlisted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and served in the Air Transport Command in Labrador. The junior noncommissioned officer was discharged from the Army after four years of service, and then he earned a law degree from Albany Law School.
He practiced law in St. Lawrence County until he was elected to the New York State Senate in 1954. During his tenure, he authored legislation that created the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, and the building of the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in the Adirondacks.
In 1965, McEwen began a 16-year career in the House of Representatives, where he was the senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations and served on the subcommittee for military construction.
In May 1970, he urged the House Committee on Armed Services to approve construction funds for Camp Drum. During the military construction appropriations hearings in 1972, McEwen called for Congress to prioritize new housing construction on post to replace the units built hastily in 1941 with wartime expedience.
McEwen sponsored a joint resolution in March 1977 that restored the Medal of Honor to Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Born and raised in Oswego, Walker served as the first female U.S. Army surgeon during the Civil War and received the Medal of Honor in 1865. After the war, she would become a leading civil rights activist and abolitionist. In 1916, the Medal of Honor was revoked from Walker and other recipients after a government review citing ineligibility. Today, the Army’s most significant award for spouses is named in her honor.
As a North Country legislator, McEwen championed efforts to develop and expand Camp Drum by promoting its potential as a world-class training post. These efforts would eventually lead to its transformation into Fort Drum.
In 1984, three years after McEwen retired from Congress, the announcement came that Fort Drum would be home to the reactivated 10th Mountain Division (LI). McEwen described the installation as “my greatest hope for our North Country.”
McEwen died in Ogdensburg on June 15, 1997. Cary R. Brick, who served as McEwen’s executive assistant, wrote in a tribute:
“It was Bob McEwen who singlehandedly laid the groundwork for the creation of the new Fort Drum, which occurred after he retired from Congress.”
The Robert C. McEwen Library and Education Complex is located at 4300 Camp Hale Road, across from Monti Physical Fitness Facility. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (315) 772-9099 or visit https://drum.armymwr.com/programs/robert-c-mcewen-library.
The library catalog is available online at https://mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com/ where patrons can search for books, audiobooks, DVDs and other resources.