Ralph Noble was born on March 28, 1889 in Harlan, Iowa. His family moved to Galesburg when he was nearly five years of age. Well-known for his basketball ability in high school, Noble continued to use those talents when he came to Knox in the fall of 1907, eventually becoming captain of the team in 1909. Noble left Knox after his junior year to get a degree in mining engineering at Stanford University, but worked after graduation as a P.E. teacher and coach for all major sports at a San Diego high school. However, due to an injury, he was forced to leave his position, and he returned to Galesburg in 1915 to help his father out on the family farm.
Knox's basketball team
Noble reported to Fort Sheridan when war was declared and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service after graduating from officers training. After a brief Thanksgiving with his family in 1917, Noble was shipped off to France where he became an aerial scout flying over German trenches, gathering extremely valuable information about the enemy that he would relay to troops on the ground. This was no doubt a dangerous job, and he was shot down over enemy lines on May 10, 1918. His division only found out weeks later through the German Red Cross that he died in a German hospital on the same day his plane was brought down.
Ralph Noble’s bravery and heroism was outstanding among his division and he was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre “for his skill, initiative, and devotion in the performance of his duties, humbly demonstrating the superb quality of his race.” His name is among the rows of crosses in the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial in France. Galesburg’s American Legion Post is named in his honor.