Who is Homer Lea?
 
          “ Homer Lea may have gone to Occidental College for only one year, as a freshman in 1896-1897, but we are proud to claim him as an alumnus. He is rightfully remembered for his military accomplishments on the international scene, for the perceptive books that he wrote, and for the colorful personal history that he left behind.”
                                            Jean Paule, College Archivist, January, 2007.
 
 
A brief introduction to Lea’s life and his accomplishments
           Many have said that Homer Lea was a Virginian who was related to the great Civil War general Robert E. Lee. Actually, Lea was born in Denver, Colorado on November 17, 1876. He had two elder sisters; his mother died when he was still a small child. His father discovered that his son suffered from a curvature of the spine and Homer was sent to a hospital for treatment, but it was never cured. He developed a hump in his back. He often avoided bright lights because the eye strain would give him headaches.
            Lea and his family lived in Denver after his father married his second wife, Emma Wilson. She was a teacher and taught Homer at home. When he was sixteen, Homer entered East Denver High School. They then moved to Los Angeles; his father suffered from a back ailment and the family hoped the mild weather would do him good. Unfortunately, Homer’s physical condition did not allow him to do other activities, but this did not prevent him from joining his friends in hiking, fishing and even fencing. He eventually graduated from Los Angeles High School.
           The Lea family’s Chinese servant often told Homer stories about heroes in Chinese history.  He also taught Homer how to speak and write in Chinese. Lea’s Chinese idol was the Martial Monk, Chu Yuan Chang who overthrew the Mongols and founded the great Ming dynasty in 1378. Lea hoped that there would be another hero who could save China. According to him, that hero need not be Chinese. Lea’s room was full of world maps and his backyard had become a playing field for miniature battle field replicas with toy soldiers. One of his favorite military strategy books was The Art of War by Sun Tzu. He admired the military tactics and the leadership qualities of Caesar, Napoleon, and Robert Lee on their famous battle fields. In recalling the Greek War for independence from Turkey, Lea said, “ Remember George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron, China shall be my Greece.”
           Homer continued his education at Occidental College where he became acquainted with the culture, tradition, and knowledge brought back by missionary students from China. Unexpected family financial difficulties hindered his plans to transfer to Harvard University to study law. Instead, he entered Stanford University where he continued his studies in military philosophy. The Spanish war had broken out and patriotism overwhelmed the campus. Homer debated about wars and proudly proclaimed to everyone that he would save China because it had been so divided by western nations. Homer was denied admittance to West Point. As would become clear, Homer’s courageous zeal and spirit would prevail.  When two Chinese students introduced him to the secret Chinese Reform Society, he became the first and only white male member to assist in their mission.
           In China, a secret Boxer society attracted thousands of peasants to overthrow the Imperial government. Amazingly, the old wily Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi turned them around and managed to convince the peasants that their troubles were due to foreign influences. She imprisoned her nephew, the young emperor, and ordered her officers to seize the two reformists, Kang Yu Wei and Liang Chi Chao, as well as the rebel revolutionist, Dr. Sun Yat Sen. The Boxers murdered westerners. President McKinley was informed that China had declared war on the Western nations and thereafter, an International United Army, including the United States, was on its way to rescue their people.
            Homer left San Francisco with sixty thousand dollars and a letter to see the reformist president, Kang. In Honolulu, Hawaii he met Liang and other members. In Japan, he   discussed with Dr. Sun the possibility of joining the reformist and revolutionary causes together. Two reformist members escorted him to a secret location to meet Kang. After reading the recommendation letter, Kang commissioned Homer as a Lieutenant General to train soldiers in the South; Kang also hoped to gain foreign support through him. Unfortunately, Kang’s Independent Army failed to rescue the young emperor. Homer returned to Los Angeles, planning to train Chinese soldiers.
            Meanwhile, in Fort Riley, Kansas a sergeant in the military, named Ansel O’Banion, was just about to retire to explore the then young state of California and start a family. His superior, Colonel Carr, had other plans in store for O’Banion. The Colonel gave him a confidential letter from the War Department advising him to see Homer Lea. O’ Banion had read about Homer Lea in the Los Angeles Times and remembered the letter advising him to see Homer. Homer and O’Banion met each other for the first time at the Hotel Angelus. Homer told him about planning a Chinese revolution there. O’Banion virtually accepted a Captain’s position in Lea’s army on the spot. In 1903, Los Angeles officials put on an elaborate reception to welcome the intellectual reformist Liang to Los Angeles. Liang inspected Homer’s Western Military Academy and praised the Chinese soldiers. O’Banion also accepted a position with the Los Angeles Police Department to oversee Chinatown. Homer and O’Banion then began to expand their military school in other major cities across the United States. In 1905, at the Rose Tournament Parade in Pasadena, foreign soldiers marched on US soil in military formation for the first time in history. Thus, the trouble began. The US government investigated the legal violation of training foreign soldiers on American soil.
            Meanwhile, Kang, the reformist president, was finally able to come to Los Angeles. Homer promised Kang tours and inspections of his Reform armies across the country, as well as a visit to the White House to meet President Roosevelt. Before their grand tour, there was an attempt to replace General Lea with General Falkenberg. After Kang issued a proclamation to denounce General Falkensberg as an impostor, Homer took Kang to St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York. Kang spoke to the President about the Chinese Exclusion Act and to ask for support of the Chinese Reform movement. President Roosevelt was concerned about Homer’s military training. O’Banion discovered that the attempt to replace Homer’s General position had originated from Kang. Kang had gathered large donations; he had become more interested in money than the cause of reform.
            A woman named Ethel got a free railroad pass from the Illinois Central Railroad Office in Memphis, where she worked, to travel the country. She left her family and came to Los Angeles to enjoy a vacation. In a family hotel, she met a lady who knew that Homer was looking for a typist for his novel, The Vermillion Pencil. Ethel took the job. Even though Ethel was married, they both fell in love and she expected to return to California to assist with his second book, The Valor of Ignorance. After some time, Ethel eventually left her husband and came back to live with Homer in Long Beach, California.
            After years of military training, cadets from different cities were ready to go back to China for their secret mission and to meet their families. At night, O’Banion and his gang smuggled the cadets out of Watsonville Beach, California.
            The Empress Dowager was dead just a day after the young emperor’s mysterious death. Thus, Lea’s plans were forced to change accordingly. Kang asked Homer to continue to support the new five year-old emperor. Homer told Kang there was a growing support for Dr. Sun and that he should do the same. Kang was angry.
             In 1910, with Homer’s invitation, Dr. Sun came to Los Angeles. O’Banion became Dr. Sun’s bodyguard. In South Pasadena, a banker and financial pillar, Charles Boothe became the Power of Attorney and plotted the “Red Dragon” scheme to raise money to finance Dr. Sun’s revolution. Dr. Sun stayed with the Boothe family. Homer’s military friends General Otis (founder of The Los Angeles Times), General Chaffee, and Dr. Sun made secret plans for the Chinese Revolution. Homer told Dr. Sun that this would be a bloodless revolution. Homer began to write his third book, The Day of the Saxon. His eyes were getting worse. Sir Sinclair, an admirer of his book, The Valor of Ignorance, urged him to see a special eye doctor in Germany. Homer accepted. The Chinese Revolution started prematurely. Dr. Sun immediately sent a cablegram to Homer and told him to go to London to meet with Lord Roberts to bolster British financial support and recognition. Dr Sun later met Homer in London.
               Homer continued writing his book at sea while on the way to China. In Singapore, a large crowd came to greet them. In Hong Kong, Homer explained to a reporter that he wished Americans would take the lead in recognizing the new Republic of China. Four Chinese cruisers and other vessels accompanied the Devanha as they entered Shanghai harbor. New national flags were everywhere. After a press conference, Homer felt that being a foreigner might create dissension between other revolutionists; he wanted his status changed from Chief of Staff to Military Advisor. In Golden Hall, Nanking, Homer was the lone white man in the front row watching Dr. Sun take the oath of the first Provisional President. Ethel joined them for a big celebration that lasted well into the night. Homer’s third book, The Day of the Saxon was completed.
                The monarchy in the North was protected by a military strong man, Yuen Shi Kai. He had also acted as a mediator and had won foreign support. Two months later, there was still no financial support. The new government could not survive. Dr. Sun offered Yuen his presidency only so that he could eliminate the Monarchy and continue the new Republic government. In this case, he could avoid a bloody North and South civil war. Homer warned that Yuen could not be trusted, but Dr. Sun thought Yuen could be educated. Homer collapsed into a deep coma for five days after he heard of Dr. Sun’s abdication. He came back to his Santa Monica, Ocean Park home and had another Stroke. He passed away at the age of thirty-six on November 1, 1912.