Milton Atchison Reckord was born in Harford County, Maryland on December 28, 1879, to John and Lydia (Zimmerman) Reckord. Upon graduation from Bel Air High School in 1896, he went to work at his father's milling plant. Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, he expressed a desire to enter military service. His mother, to whom he would write extensively during both World Wars, felt that, at age eighteen, Milton was too young and impressionable to enter the military. Deferring to her wishes, he postponed this move until he was twenty-one. On February 2, 1901, he enlisted as a private in Company D, First Infantry Regiment of the Maryland National Guard. Steadily rising through the ranks, he became a first sergeant in 1902, a captain in 1903, and a major in the First Infantry in 1906. Between June 28 and November 4, 1916, Reckord served on the Mexican border.
In May 1917, President Wilson ordered the entire National Guard into federal service. Reckord entered World War I as a major of the First Maryland Infantry. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 5th Maryland Infantry in less than three months. Upon the organization of the 29th Division, he was transferred to the 115th U. S. Infantry and promoted to colonel on May 1, 1918. He served overseas, commanding the Regiment, between June 15, 1918, and May 24, 1919. In the fall of 1918, the 115th entered the line and fought twenty-one consecutive days in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. At the end of the war, Reckord brought the 115th back to the United States. He was discharged from federal service at Fort Meade, Maryland, on June 26, 1919.
Following World War I, Reckord was appointed colonel, Infantry, Officers' Reserve Corps. Early in 1920, Governor Albert C. Ritchie asked Reckord to serve as the Adjutant General of the Maryland National Guard, a post he would hold for close to forty-five years. At this time, he was promoted to brigadier general and, in March 1924, was federally recognized as brigadier general of the Line.
Convinced that the National Guard System was the right system for national defense, Reckord spent the remainder of his long career promoting the interests of the Guard. In June 1920, Secretary of War Baker asked him to serve on the original General Staff (Section 5) Committee. Reckord was especially proud of his work on this committee, which created amendments to the National Defense Act of 1916 and elevated the National Guard from its existence as a purely state force. In 1933, amendments created the National Guard of the United States as a distinct reserve component of the Army. Prior to this time, it had been a state force with federal support. Under the new legislation, the National Guard became both a federal force and an army component.
On April 14, 1934, Reckord was promoted to major general and assumed command of the 29th Division. With the outbreak of World War II, the Division was inducted into federal service on February 3, 1941. General Reckord remained its commander until January 1942. At age sixty-three, General Reckord had exceeded the ceiling age for combat officers. He was assigned to command the stateside Third Corps Area (later the Third Service Area). In this capacity, the general oversaw military-civilian war-related activities, including industrial production. This post was well suited to Reckord's background as a citizen-soldier and drew upon his knowledge of his native Maryland. Serving as commanding general until November 30, 1943, he accomplished the reorganization of this area with minimum disruption.
In 1943, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, asked Reckord if he wished to stay beyond the age deadline for removal from active service. Having no desire to leave the fray, on December 1, 1943, he accepted an appointment as Theatre Provost Marshal in the European Theatre of Operation. He served in this post until June 1945, spending much of this time in France. With the collapse of Germany, General Reckord was responsible for housing and feeding hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war.
In the summer of 1945, he returned to the United States. In July, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Staff, War Department, until his discharge from federal service in May of 1946. Serving as the chairman of the Section 5 Committee, General Reckord was instrumental in drafting what came to be known as the "Approved Policies." This document enabled the National Guard to start rebuilding within months of V-J Day. The Section 5 Committee also produced the "Public Law 810" system of retirement for Guardsmen and Reservists, and the 75%-Federal, 25%-State program of armory construction.
Reckord returned to state service as the Adjutant General of Maryland and the Ranking Line Officer on November 1, 1945. On August 19, 1961, Governor Tawes promoted Reckord to lieutenant general. He remained the Ranking Line Officer until his retirement on December 31, 1965, at eighty-six years of age.
During his long military career, General Reckord received numerous decorations and citations. In World War I, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) with citation (April 19, 1919) and the French Croix de Guerre with Pam (March 28, 1919). For service in World War II, General Reckord received the Bronze Star Medal with citation (June 28, 1945); the (British) Knight Commander Order of the Bath (September 5, 1945); two Oak Leaf clusters to his DSM with citations (February 28, 1944, and May 24, 1947); and another French Croix de Guerre (July 31, 1946). Reckord's other World War II medals included the French Legion of Honor; the American Defense Medal; the Victory Medal; the Distinguished Service Medal from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Alabama; and the Distinguished Service Medal of the American Legion. On December 21, 1965, General Paul L. Freeman, Jr., Continental Army Commander, presented Reckord with his third Bronze Oak Leaf cluster to the DSM. Reckord's service to the United States also led to four honorary degrees: three Doctorate of Laws degrees (L.L.D.) from Franklin & Marshall College (1943), the University of Maryland (1944), and Pennsylvania Military College (1944); and a Doctorate of Military Science and Tactics from Western Maryland College (1943). In 1961, the University of Maryland named the newly built armory in his honor.
General Reckord was an active member of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) for many years. In 1923, he rose to the presidency of NGAUS and served in that capacity until 1925. After World War II, Reckord was chairman of the NGAUS Committee on Legislation. He was chosen the first Life Member of the Executive Council and the first recipient of the NGAUS Distinguished Service Medal. Between 1943 and 1957, NGAUS was under the leadership of Major General Ellard A. Walsh, a longtime correspondent of Reckord.
In his civilian life, General Reckord belonged to many organizations and clubs. He was a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) from 1920 until his death. He was active in the NRA's Executive Council for most of this time and served as Executive Vice President for many years. He was also a member of the Adjutants General Association of the U.S., the 29th Division Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Military Order of Foreign Wars. Additionally, he served as president of both the Maryland Jockey Club, which owned Pimlico Racetrack, and the Hartford Agricultural and Breeders' Association, which for a time owned Havre de Grace Racetrack. Other memberships included the Masonic Lodge, the Maryland Club, the Army and Navy Club, the Baltimore Country Club, the Advertising Club of Baltimore, and the Racquet Club of Washington, D.C.
In 1910, Reckord married Bessie Payne Roe. The couple had one daughter, Gladys Atchison Reckord. Bessie's death on January 17, 1943, was a great blow to Reckord. His daughter and her husband, H. Frederick Jones, Jr., as well as his work, sustained him through this difficult period. After retirement in 1965, Reckord spent the last nine years of his life with his daughter's family in Ruxton, Maryland. He died on September 8, 1975, at ninety-five years of age.