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Lenon Lathan

Montford Point Marine Lenon Lathan was born on July 19, 1926 in Sturgis, Mississippi. He was the tenth oldest twin of three sets of twins and fifteen other siblings born of Oscar Lathan and Mary Frazier. Lathan grew up in Sturgis and attended Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Mobile, Alabama where he played baseball and basketball as a young man. Lathan later enrolled in continuing education classes and studied Spanish at the City Colleges of Chicago. He is also a graduate of Washburn Trade School in Chicago where he later worked as a union pipefitter.

Lathan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in Starkville, Mississippi in September of 1944 and as a private at DHIRS, Jackson, Mississippi. He trained at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the 43rd Marine Depot Company for one year and then was promoted to private first class (PFC) with the 25th Marching Depot Company. Lathan deployed to the Pacific Theater during World War II on board the USS DOROTHEA. He served under Second Lieutenant Kenneth I. Tuttle at Guam, Marianas Islands. In addition, he served aboard the USS GENERAL W.C. MITCHELL at Guam, Marianas Island. Lathan received an Honorable Discharge in 1948. In 1987, he retired from Local Union #597 Chicago Pipe Fitters and became an entrepreneur opening a bar and lounge on 12th Street & Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.

Lathan is a member of Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church, and has traveled to forty-eight of the fifty states and has visited five continents. As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the “Honor Flight Chicago” selected him to join other veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C. to see the WWII Memorial built in their honor.

Lathan was married to Mildred Barron for nearly fifty years before her passing in 1996. They had nine children, two of which preceded their mother in death. Together with his wife, Lathan raised his children in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area; and all seven children either graduated from private high schools or universities. He also has twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Lathan passed away on January 27, 2018.

Montford Point Marine Lenon Lathan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 20, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.191

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/20/2013

Last Name

Lathan

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Schools

Liberty Hill

Gulfside High School

Dunbar

Washburne Trade School

Wilbur Wright College

Loop Junior College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lenon

Birth City, State, Country

Sturgis

HM ID

LAT05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Good gosh.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/19/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Beef, Pork, Salad

Death Date

1/27/2018

Short Description

Montford pointe marine Lenon Lathan (1926 - 2018 ) served in the Pacific Theater during World War II with the 243rd Marine Depot Company and the 25th Marching Depot Company.

Employment

Campbell Soup

U.S. Steel

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:3456,39:4509,95:9986,181:20565,366:30000,479:35391,511:94260,1220:103330,1363:133724,1590:134472,1605:136172,1694:150328,1831:159130,1947$0,0:2540,24:4070,47:14903,212:24638,337:25220,344:48330,606:50031,641:52380,707:74354,896:74956,905:75300,910:79488,949:84108,1050:91278,1087:97149,1162:100475,1209:106990,1313:116430,1440:127925,1546:128375,1554:159080,1963
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lenon Lathan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan describes his visits to his maternal grandparents' home

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan talks about his parents' marriage and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan describes his childhood home and his family's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan describes his childhood neighborhood in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about his relationship with his mother, and what he learned from his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about attending school in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lenon Lathan talks about going to church at Liberty Hill Methodist Church in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lenon Lathan talks about his school teachers at Liberty Hill Methodist Church in Sturgis, Mississippi, and his experience in elementary school

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Lenon Lathan talks about attending school on the Gulf Coast and in Mobile, Alabama, and joining the military

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Lenon Lathan talks about his relationship with his older brother, John Lathan

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Lenon Lathan describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Lenon Lathan describes the dynamics between his twin siblings, and between him and his twin brother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about his older sister, Ceola Lathan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan talks about the racial climate in the town of Sturgis, Mississippi, and his unpleasant experience at one of the town's stores

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan talks about the nesting habits of chickens and turkey

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan talks about his family's traditions, and playing at home with his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan talks about his childhood desire to visit big cities in the U.S.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan talks about experiencing segregation as a child in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan describes his experience in high school in Waveland, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan talks about Waveland, Mississippi, and his school trips to New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about his involvement in sports and drama in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about attending high school in Mobile, Alabama and working at a welding shipyard

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Lenon Lathan talks about being drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Lenon Lathan describes his initial experience in the U.S. Marines

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about African American Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina in the early 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan describes his experience at boot camp with the U.S. Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina in the early 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan describes his training at boot camp with the U.S. Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina in the early 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan talks about meeting his wife and getting married

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan talks about his U.S. Marine Corps advanced training in San Diego, California, and his assignment to Guam

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan describes his assignment with the 54th Marine Battalion in Guam, and his thoughts on war

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan talks about leaving the U.S. Marines, working at a steel mill, and his fellow platoon members

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan talks about his children

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about working at Campbell's Soup, and going to pipefitting school

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about his life and employment after leaving the U.S. Marines in 1948

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about his experience at Montford Point, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan talks about his experience at Montford Point, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan talks about experiencing discrimination at Montford Point, North Carolina, and training with dynamite bombs

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan talks about becoming a licensed pipefitter in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan talks about buying a home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan talks about the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, and his thoughts about the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan describes his family's life in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan describes his children's schooling in Chicago, Illinois, and his insistence on sending them to private schools

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about his children's employment

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about his travels after his retirement

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Lenon Lathan talks about receiving the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor as a Montford Point Marine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about running a cocktail lounge for six years

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan talks about living at the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1950s and buying a home on the North Side

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan shares his message to today's youth

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, and reflects upon the election of President Barack Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan shares how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

6$11

DATitle
Lenon Lathan talks about experiencing segregation as a child in Sturgis, Mississippi
Lenon Lathan talks about receiving the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor as a Montford Point Marine
Transcript
So going back to the fact that you and your brothers [Lathan's older brother, John Lathan] had talked about wanting to leave your hometown [Sturgis, Mississippi], tell me why it is that you wanted to leave?$$Because of the segregation. And I, I was just telling him and he said and what do you wanna be? I said I wanna be a Pullman porter, porter on the train. I would just ride and ride until I got to a city that I liked, and I'd just get off there and that's where I would stay. That's what I would do. That was my dream.$$And so you say you wanted to leave because of the segregation, but do you have another story about what was bad about segregation, as far as you're concerned?$$Well, everything. I remember one day my brother and I, we lived about a mile out of the village, and my brother and I were walking along the, the, the highway, and this white man stopped in his car. My brother said, "Hey." And he stopped and he backed all the way back to where we were. And he said, "I'm gonna have to take him with me the way you hollerin'." And so he, my brother, he said get in. So he got in and I went to get in too and he said (unclear)--I went to go get in the car too, so he said, "Will you make sure that he never holler at another white man?" And I said "Yes, sir." And then we walked in the woods all the way home.$$Okay.$$And he said, he said, "I'm gonna let him go but would you see that he never holler at another white man?" And I just said, "Yes, sir" and walked away, walked back through the woods home again, scared to walk on the highway.$$So a lot of your years you were just afraid of white people, is that correct?$$Yes. And then my brother always said, he said when I left to go to high school we promised--I promised if I'd ever leave I was gonna take him with me. Then he said--he tells me that now. He--like he said, "You left me. I still owe you one. You left me there." (Laughter).$$Okay (laughter).$So now let's talk about some of the awards for being a Montford Point Marine [first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps].$$Well, I got the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor--$$Well, tell me about that. How did you first hear about it?$$Well, I heard about it--my son-in-law's cousin worked for the Marine Corps. And it hasn't been that long ago. And she was telling us about it. And so my kids got so excited you would think they were getting the medal, not me.$$And so, I mean, were, were you excited?$$Well, they, they, they won me over. Yes, I got excited.$$What were your thoughts about it? Did you think well it's about time or did you think you'd never see an award for--$$No, I never thought I'd get the award. No, I never felt that 'cause I, I had never thought about it, not really. I just knew it wasn't gonna happen to me.$$Okay. Okay and so have you--is--was that the only time that you were given an award, the Congressional Medal? Did you go to Washington [District of Columbia] for something else?$$I went to Washington on the--as a flight--it's called Flight Chicago. It's an honor, called the Honor Flight. I went to Washington, D.C. for a day.$$Okay and what was that like?$$That was really exciting. So I had lots of relatives live around the Washington area. The first thing they told us when we got on the plane, they'll be calling your folks telling them to meet you nowhere (laughter). That kind of killed me then (unclear). So I was there a whole day and I had a, I had a staff sergeant to push me around in a wheelchair. All--every time I got off a bus he was there with the wheelchair to push me where I wanted to go. We saw, we saw most of the interesting things to see in Washington, really. We didn't see everything but we saw most of it. And one place I really was excited--was the Smithsonian and the [National] Air and Space Museum. Those two, I would love to go back and spend more time there.

Maj. Gen. Clifford Stanley

U.S. Marine Corps MajGen. Clifford L. Stanley was born on March 31, 1947 in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1965, Stanley enrolled in South Carolina State University and graduated with his B.S. degree in psychology in 1969. He went on to graduate with honors from Johns Hopkins University with his M.S. degree in counseling in 1977. In 2005, Stanley received his Ed.D. degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania. Stanley’s military education includes the Amphibious Warfare School (1978), the Naval War College (1983), the Marine Corps Command and Staff College (1984), and the National War College (1988).

Throughout his thirty-three year career, Stanley has served in numerous command and staff positions in the U.S. Marine Corps, including as commanding officer of M Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, commanding officer of Headquarters Company of the 4th Marines; commanding general of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) Twentynine Palms, California; and commanding general of the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. In 1993 Stanley assumed command of the 1st Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, California, making him the first African American to command a U.S. Marine Corps Infantry Regiment. Stanley has also served in various assignments outside of the Fleet Marine Forces, including as psychology and leadership instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy; executive officer at the Marine Corps Institute; special assistant and Marine Corps aide for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and as a desk officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and the Pacific Region in the Pentagon. In 2002, Stanley retired from the U.S. Marine Corps at the rank of Major General. He went on to serve as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, and then as president of Scholarship America, Inc. Stanley was sworn in as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness on February 16, 2010.

Stanley is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., the South Carolina State University Alumni Association, the National Naval Officers Association, and the White House Fellow’s Foundation and Association. He also serves as a member of the Board of Deacons at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Stanley’s military honors include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (2 awards), the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal. His civilian awards include receiving the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (N.A.A.C.P.) Meritorious Service Award, the N.A.A.C.P. Roy Wilkins Award, and the American Legion Award for Inspirational Leadership. Stanley also received Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degrees from Spalding University and South Carolina State University, and the Doctor of Science, honoris causa from the Medical University of South Carolina.

Stanley and his wife, Rosalyn Hill Stanley, have one daughter: U.S. Navy Commander Angela Yvonne Stanley.

U.S. Marine Corps MajGen. Clifford Lee Stanley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 6, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.178

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/6/2013

Last Name

Stanley

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Schools

University of Pennsylvania

Johns Hopkins University

South Carolina State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Clifford

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

STA08

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Charleston, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

3/31/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Villanova

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp, Grits

Short Description

Major general Maj. Gen. Clifford Stanley (1947 - ) was assigned as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, California from 1993 to 1994, making him the first African American to command a U.S. Marine Corps Infantry Regiment.

Employment

Company M, 3d Battalion, 8th Marines

United States Marine Corps

1st Battalion, 6th Marines

1st Marine Regiment

Marine Corps Institute and Parade Commander at Marine Barracks

First Recruit Training Battalion, Parris Island

2d Fleet, USS Mt Whitney, LCC-20

Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

Marine Corps Base

Favorite Color

Blue, Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:8190,116:14672,187:15960,192:16314,199:16786,208:20510,223:22766,283:26834,336:29291,426:32890,462:33250,467:49168,746:49496,751:50234,772:66824,1102:69164,1135:70958,1166:85584,1333:86106,1340:88281,1370:88803,1377:91830,1390:94620,1473:96604,1530:100407,1583:129060,1936:138052,2084:142398,2200:154855,2373:155293,2380:155585,2385:156169,2410:184990,2939:191160,3031:195960,3111$0,0:4714,88:5296,95:8400,172:11407,237:15966,304:18568,311:25348,422:25964,431:29572,481:32580,488:36354,581:37020,591:37686,606:38574,622:39832,642:40868,660:41534,672:41830,677:43384,704:44864,740:49526,800:49822,855:50118,860:51006,876:51524,884:56850,894:59292,945:60254,960:63436,1012:64102,1024:64472,1030:66248,1071:67728,1103:68246,1112:75248,1186:75764,1195:79376,1272:79720,1277:80408,1286:88664,1368:89544,1383:90248,1394:93328,1463:95088,1492:98432,1609:102276,1633:105942,1691:109326,1745:110078,1754:120330,1914:122150,1954:122430,1959:122780,1965:130153,2106:130538,2112:135235,2220:137391,2281:138084,2292:145460,2338:145815,2345:146880,2371:147377,2386:148655,2412:149010,2418:150288,2439:150572,2444:153412,2524:154548,2549:159625,2592:161640,2642:161965,2648:162290,2654:165995,2759:166580,2781:166840,2786:167100,2791:167360,2796:168205,2813:172320,2841:173300,2866:176100,2944:186413,3146:186868,3152:187323,3159:194860,3277:196260,3310:196820,3327:199130,3377:199620,3389:206360,3485:209036,3499:210700,3519:213797,3540:214252,3546:222230,3626:229323,3795:235006,3906:235302,3911:243890,4118:247775,4151:251735,4179:252110,4185:254810,4252:262170,4403:268540,4523:275312,4618:278320,4693:278896,4704:280112,4728:280880,4744:281264,4751:283184,4804:284336,4836:285040,4864:285424,4871:285872,4880:287600,4923:287920,4929:288880,4951:289328,4960:297466,5036:297896,5042:299358,5063:309028,5177:309356,5182:317758,5301:323482,5377:323974,5384:336610,5546:337880,5558
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Clifford Stanley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley talks about his mother's career, her personality, and how she raised her family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley talks about his paternal family's life during discrimination in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley talks about his family being the target of a sniper attack and their response towards racial discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley describes his grandparents and how he was taught about the importance of character

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley talks about the sniper attack on his family in April, 1975

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley talks about the impact of the sniper attack on his family in April of 1975

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley talks about his father's education and how his father was drafted into World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley describes how his parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley discusses his father's employment as a photographer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley discusses his parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley talks about his brother, Michael Stanley

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley talks about growing up around relatives in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley discusses his activities as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley discusses his experience in elementary school in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley talks about the integration of schools in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley talks about his favorite teachers in school and college and his elementary school in Washington, D.C.,

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley talks about his interest in reading and his struggle with mathematics

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley talks about his service activities as a child and his limited interest in television

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley talks about his middle school in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley talks about the Civil Rights Movement and his involvement in South Carolina State University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley talks about attending high school in Washington, D.C., and his family's interest in President John F. Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley talks about his service activities and African American members of the military

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley talks about his involvement in junior ROTC in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley talks about his desire to become a lawyer while in high school, and the poor counseling that he received there

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley describes his decision to attend South Carolina State University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley talks about the summer of 1965, before heading to college

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley describes his experience at South Carolina State University as well as meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley describes his extracurricular activities and leadership positions at South Carolina State University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley discusses the South Carolina State Student Legislative Branch and the resignation of President B.C. Turner

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley talks about the disciplinary standards at South Carolina State University

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Clifford Stanley talks about his stand during the Orangeburg Massacre

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley talks about meeting the governor of South Carolina and Attorney Matthew Perry

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley talks about majoring in psychology, and graduating from South Carolina State University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley talks about his brother's service in the Vietnam War, and joining the U.S. Marines

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley talks about joining the U.S. Marine Corps and his training at Officer Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley talks about leadership standards for the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley talks about becoming an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley talks about getting married in 1961, and reflects upon the Vietnam War

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley talks about serving as an infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon being an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1974

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley describes his experience at the U.S. Naval Academy and talks about pursuing his master's degree at Johns Hopkins University

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley discusses his experience and training at the Amphibious Warfare School

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley discusses his philosophy of command

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley discusses his assignment as the Infantry Company Commander, 3rd Marine Division, in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley discusses his assignments as a ceremonial parade commander and a special assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley discusses his experience at Marine Corps Command and Staff College at Quantico, Virginia and talks about the Beirut bombing of 1983

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley discusses his experience at Camp Lejune and Parris Island in the 1980s, and the challenges that he faced in the Marines

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley talks about attending the National War College, and writing a paper on the fall of the Berlin War

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley talks about his experience as a White House Fellow in the Reagan and Bush administrations in the late 1980s, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley talks about his experience as a White House Fellow in the Reagan and Bush administrations in the late 1980s, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley describes his service as advisor for POW/MIA Affairs and as assistant for Australia and New Zealand, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley talks about his service as head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command Battle Assessment Team at Quantico and in the Gulf War

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley describes his assignment and experience as Infantry Regimental Commander in the 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley explains the Posse Comitatus Act

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley discusses his appointment as a Fleet Marine Officer of USS Mount Whitney, and the challenges that he faced as an early-select colonel

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley discusses the challenges and resistance he faced in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley talks about the USS Mount Whitney

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that was signed into law in 1993

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley discusses his assignment as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, at the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters and as Director of Public Affairs

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley discusses his service as Commanding General of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley talks about the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley discusses his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley discusses his appointment as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley discusses his disappointing experience as the executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley discusses the genesis of his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley discusses his experience as the president of Scholarship America

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley describes his appointment as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in 2009

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley describes his experience as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley discusses some of the problems that were faced by the Department of Defense when he became the Under Secretary of Defense

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley talks about the closure of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the circumstances surrounding his resignation as the Under Secretary of Defense in 2011

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon the being treated differently when making executive decisions in the U.S. Marine Corps and at the Pentagon

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley discusses his involvement with the National Naval Officers Association

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Clifford Stanley talks about his involvement in the Baptist Church

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Clifford Stanley describes his activities after retiring as the Under Secretary of Defense.

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon his legacy as a U.S. Marine

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Clifford Stanley describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Clifford Stanley describes his hopes and concerns for U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon his career as a U.S. Marine

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Clifford Stanley talks about his daughter, Angela Stanley

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Clifford Stanley reflects upon his life's choices

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Clifford Stanley discusses his religious faith

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Clifford Stanley talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$6

DAStory

7$8

DATitle
Clifford Stanley discusses the challenges and resistance he faced in the U.S. Marine Corps
Clifford Stanley discusses his experience at Camp Lejune and Parris Island in the 1980s, and the challenges that he faced in the Marines
Transcript
So, I check into the USS Mount Whitney [Norfolk, Virginia, as a Fleet Marine Officer]. I was there, I wasn't there four months, and I was early selected for brigadier general. And that also hasn't happened since then. I think there were two or three of us. There might have been three. But anyway, it was a below zone select. And that was, I might have been the only one, I'm not sure. But anyway, to make a long story short, I think I was the only one. That also set the stage for a different set of expectations. And so, I'm now a pioneer, when I didn't want to be a pioneer. And so, life got pretty interesting after that. I'm now in a peer group, as I'm standing here with brand new brigadier generals who were much senior to me. They were, you know, they used to be much senior to me. They're no longer. That doesn't go over very well in the [U.S.] Marine Corps. And so, that's one of the things that I experienced right early on. And although I had no regrets about it--because I didn't select myself, the Marine Corps did. You fast forward--even though I know we're going to go back to some of this. I was not selected for major general the first time. That's transparent to a lot of folks. And I'm now back with my peers. But that's considered just about, you know, pass over. The subtleties, or not so subtle things, were that your record didn't change. But there are a lot of folks who said, okay we're going to make this right, you know. Because the people who selected me were people like this general that weighed in, and some other folks--these other older generals--who saw, who wanted, and who pushed. But I was closer now to a peer group who were a little bit senior--who didn't see, who didn't like, and who didn't support. And so, I ran into what I would call the block. And--$$So, every time you were helped up, there was--they made another group a little angrier.$$Oh yeah, oh yeah. And again, I mean if you had your (unclear), you'd rather just kind of be in the mix. Because I'm not trying to do anything. You're just trying to do your job and to serve. It's still altruistic, but that's not the way that's taken when someone's reaching in to do things. My peers at the other services--that happened, but they were advanced. I mean, you know, and they continued. They became four-stars. They became three-stars and things like that. But in the Marine Corps, after myself--me and Charlie Bolden [also a HistoryMaker] left. That's when things started opening up a little bit, because our move was within two, within a month of each other. Both of us were in the same position. Charlie goes down to NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration]. And both of us retired as two-stars. Both of us were continuing to be pioneers; both of us were reaching a certain point; and both of us, independent of each other, without collusion, said it's time. And we moved. And then things opened up a little bit. I've kind of gave you some narrative that wasn't where your question was, but--.$$Yeah, but that's important narrative though, nevertheless.$Alright, so, Camp Lejeune [North Carolina] in '84 [1984]. [Marine Corps recruit Depot] Parris Island [South Carolina] in '86 [1986]. So, you were at Camp Lejeune for two years.$$Uh huh.$$Alright.$$There's a lot in that story, though. This is--are you familiar with command screening at all? Heard of that? Most of the services, the [U.S.] Army's had it a lot longer than the [U.S.] Marine Corps had. But in order to become a commander, particularly at the lieutenant colonel level, most services--the [U.S.] Navy, the Army--now the Marine Corps, the [U.S.] Air Force--have a screening process that's held out of the local command. And they look at your records and your reputation and what you've done. And they say "Okay, here's a person. We're going to select you." And they have a board that convenes, not a statutory board, but a board. At that time, it was no command screening process in the Marine Corps. And so, selection of commanders was pretty much--it was parochial, pretty much. It was done by the local commander. "I want this person to be my commander." And there could be pros and cons, whatever way. And so, when I was at [Camp] Lejeune, I went in as a major, a senior major, XO [executive officer] of an infantry battalion. And that's a very critical time. Because right then, as I was selected for lieutenant colonel, the argument that some have made in my absence has been that I should have been afforded the opportunity to become an infantry battalion commander. I remember that. That was one of the things I said I wanted to do right from the very beginning. And I wasn't. And so, when I left Lejeune to follow my orders and go to Parris Island, South Carolina--General Glasgow, who was actually the division commander in Okinawa [Japan] the last time I was there--was then the CG, the commanding general of Parris Island, South Carolina Marine Corps Recruit Depot. I checked in, and General Glasgow was not very happy that I wasn't afforded the opportunity to command an infantry battalion. He said, "You should have been." And he said, "But we're going to right that. We're going to ensure that you command a battalion here." And so, he said, "You'll start out as the inspector until a battalion opens up, and then I want you to become our first Recruit Training Battalion Commander." Then I came out of the top level schools list. This is where the unusual stuff comes in. I was the only person out of all the lieutenant colonels there--there were quite a few who was selected for a top level school. And so, General Glasgow called me back in and said, "Some people aren't going to be happy about this, but I'm going to put you in command of the battalion immediately. So, prepare to take command, so that you can at least have this done before you go to school. And you will go to school, you should go to school. You've been selected for school." So, he did that. But when he did that, the regimental commander wasn't happy, but he couldn't do anything. The regimental commander was a colonel. I was a lieutenant colonel. So, the general puts me in command. I take command, the first time a black is now in charge of a command at Parris Island. It's a battalion. General Glasgow retires. At the retirement ceremony you know kind of what's coming. General Glasgow is retiring. General Hore (ph.), another general, he comes in and he's taking over. Colonel Ogle (ph.), as soon as the Chain of Command Ceremony is over, Glasgow leaves. I go to my office. The colonel comes over to my office, sits down, looks at me and says, "Your sugar daddy is gone. Your 'blank' belongs to me." And I'll never forget that. And I said, "Alright, Sir, I'm going to still serve. I'm going to do my job to the best of my ability." And that was it. And so, I went home and told my wife [Rosalyn H. Stanley]. I said, "I think my career is about shot here. I'm just going to go ahead and kind of (laughter)--." That was one of the times I said that. And to make a long story short, fortunately General Hore (ph) also kind of knew not only my record, but also my reputation. And he just sort of hovered, and didn't allow certain things to happen. And there were a group of colonels that were peers of the other colonel, who also knew me. One happened to be, had been stationed at the [U.S.] Naval Academy when I was up in that area. He also knew me. And so, they didn't allow it to happen. So, I was blessed. I was very fortunate. But it was close, in terms of--. And he didn't do me any favors, but he didn't kill me. And so, as a result--much like what Colin Powell said in his book if you've read it--you know, I got fortunate. Because I was fortunate because of just people watching out for me, you know. And those were white officers. You know, these were seniors, you know. But the bottom line was that there was still a lot of contention. Those things didn't go away over the years. In fact, they got harder the more senior I got. The junior--what I dealt with was as a junior officer, a lot of applause. Once I made major, things started getting a little heavy. And they got heavier, the more senior I got. You know, I can't say, you know, I'm--. But that's just kind of how it was.$$I guess it makes sense on some level.$$Uh huh, yeah. Yeah, so it got pretty heavy.$$But you did have people around you that--$$Oh, yeah.$$--that knew what you could do.$$Oh yeah, no question.$$Okay. So, now you're at Parris Island for, until 1987, right?$$Yeah, just a year.$$Okay.

Sgt. Maj. Alford McMichael

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Major Alford L. McMichael was born on February 24, 1952 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. After graduating from Hot Springs High School, McMichael enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on August 27, 1970 at the Recruit Depot in San Diego California. McMichael completed Infantry Training School and Basic Infantry Training in 1971 at Camp Pendleton, California and went on to graduate from Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy Advanced School and the Marine Security Guard School.

In 1973, McMichael was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton. He returned to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego in December of 1973 where he served as a drill instructor, a series gunnery sergeant, and a battalion drill master. After completing Marine Security Guard School in 1979, McMichael was assigned to the American Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. In December of 1984, he transferred to Okinawa, Japan to serve as the First Sergeant of Company C, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. McMichael was appointed deputy director of the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California in 1988 and served there as director from 1989 to 1991.

McMichael was transferred to Quantico for a three-year stint as the Sergeant Major of Officer Candidates School and then deployed to Okinawa, Japan where he served as the Sergeant Major of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit until 1995. McMichael then served as the Sergeant Major of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from 1997 to 1999, and then the Sergeant Major for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Division at the U.S.M.C. Headquarters. On July 1, 1999, McMichael was named 14th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, becoming the first African American to hold the post. Under his leadership, the Marine Corps saw the establishment of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and the commencement of the Global War on Terrorism. Deferring his planned retirement in 2003, McMichael was appointed to the newly-created post of Senior Non-Commissioned Officer for Allied Command Operations, and served in there until July 17, 2006.

McMichael’s military honors include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. His memoirs were published under the title Leadership: Achieving Life-Changing Success From Within (2008).

U.S. Marine Corps Sargent Major Alford L. McMichael was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.122

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/22/2013

Last Name

McMichael

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Alford

Birth City, State, Country

Hot Spring

HM ID

MCM04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern France

Favorite Quote

Teamwork Makes Your Dreams Work.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

2/24/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Sergeant Sgt. Maj. Alford McMichael (1952 - ) was named 14th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on July 1, 1999, becoming the first African American to hold the post.

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alford McMichael's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael talks about his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael talks about his mother and his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael talks about his maternal grandmother saving her family's home, and his grandfather's death from prostate cancer

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael talks about the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alford McMichael talks about his grandfather's reputation in Hot Springs, Arkansas and the close-knit community there

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alford McMichael talks about the celebrities who frequented Hot Springs, Arkansas and the decline of the city's tourism industry from the late 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alford McMichael talks about not knowing his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael talks about growing up with a single parent and not letting the absence of his father affect him emotionally

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael talks about how his mother successfully raised ten children as a single parent

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael talks about his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael recalls family meals and his mother's cooking

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael talks about spending time with his grandmother and tending to the family's garden and animals

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael talks about being raised to be respectful

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Alford McMichael describes his experience in elementary school in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alford McMichael talks about attending church as a child in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael talks about the National Baptist Convention in Hot Springs, Arkansas and black establishments in the city

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael talks about being "separate but not segregated" in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and the integration of schools in 1969

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael talks about his high school football team

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael talks about his favorite teachers in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael talks about playing football in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael talks about the peaceful integration of his high school in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1969

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael recalls his teachers in high school, and how they counseled their students when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alford McMichael talks about voting rights for African Americans in Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Alford McMichael gives an example of the cordial race relations in Hot Springs, Arkansas during his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Alford McMichael talks about his academic performance and the integration of Hot Springs, Arkansas

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alford McMichael talks about his jobs and buying a 1964 Chevy Impala

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael describes how he made his car payments

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael talks about working hard as a youngster and saving his money

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael explains his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from college

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael talks about the lack of college counseling in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael describes his experience at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael describes his experience at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael talks about basic training at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot as preparation for being a Marine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alford McMichael talks about his first assignment in Hawaii

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael talks about serving in the U.S. Marines with his brother, and being promoted four ranks in eighteen months

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael describes becoming a drill instructor in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael describes his philosophy as a drill instructor in the U.S. Marines, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael describes his philosophy as a drill instructor in the U.S. Marines, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael describes his experiences as a drill instructor in the U.S. Marines from 1974 to 1976, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael describes his experiences as a drill instructor in the U.S. Marines from 1974 to 1976, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael talks about his assignment with the 7th Marines at Camp Pendleton and his transfer to the 3rd Marine Division

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Alford McMichael talks about his promotion to become a staff NCO, his assignment in Okinawa, Japan, and his promotion to become a gunnery sergeant

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael talks about the responsibilities of a gunnery sergeant

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael talks about his desire to work at an American embassy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael talks about getting married in 1977 and his assignment to Okinawa, Japan shortly afterwards

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael talks about attending Marine Security Guard School, being assignment to the U.S. embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, and becoming a father

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael describes his experience in the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group at the U.S. embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael describes his service at the U.S. embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, during the Iranian hostage crisis

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael talks about his experience as an instructor for the Marine Security Guard School

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Alford McMichael describes his experience as the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor for the NROTC Program at the University of Minnesota

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Alford McMichael talks about the success of his students in the NROTC Program at the University of Minnesota

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Alford McMichael discusses his promotion to first sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Alford McMichael talks about his assignment to Okinawa, Japan as a first sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Alford McMichael discusses his service as the first sergeant of Company C, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Alford McMichael talks about his experience at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico and his advice to young Marines wanting to get married

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Alford McMichael talks about his promotion to become a sergeant major and his appointment as the director of the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Alford McMichael talks about his role as the director of the Staff NCO Academy and as Sergeant Major of Officer Candidate School

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Alford McMichael talks about the Gulf War and his brother's promotion to sergeant major in the U.S. Marines

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Alford McMichael talks about serving as Sergeant Major of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and as Sergeant Major for Manpower and Reserve Affairs

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Alford McMichael describes his appointment as the 14th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Alford McMichael describes the responsibilities of the Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Alford McMichael talks about becoming the first Sergeant Major to serve as the Supreme Allied Command of Europe, and General James L. Jones's role

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$7

DAStory

1$9

DATitle
Alford McMichael talks about his first assignment in Hawaii
Alford McMichael talks about becoming the first Sergeant Major to serve as the Supreme Allied Command of Europe, and General James L. Jones's role
Transcript
Okay. Tell us about your first assignment.$$My first assignment was in Hawaii. We was scheduled to go to--my platoon or the people I'd finished my MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] Training, you have boot camp that teach you how to be a basic [U.S.] Marine. Then you go to your Military Occupational Specialist. Whatever the [U.S.] Marine Corps decide they want you to--whatever field they wanted you to serve in, they decided that they wanted me to be an infantryman, a rifleman, which all Marines are basic rifleman. And then you end up being MP or IT or Food Service or truck driver or--whatever the case may be. So, we're ready to go to Vietnam to be a Vietnam--Christmas replacements, get diverted to Hawaii, Pearl Harbor. And I get off the plane, I'm in my uniform, I thought I was looking cute. I had my little khaki-colored uniform on, summer trops, and the Hawaiian girls meet you at the ramp when you walk down on the tarmac there, and place a lei on you, and then kiss you on the side of the cheek; oh, I'm Mr. Man. I'm a Marine, and I got a uniform on, girls kissing me in Hawaii. Honolulu, here I am. And I get to my duty station, and Ron Tronson, the guy that I was telling you about that was--I thought was just hateful, he chews me out because I didn't have my cover, the hat, that we wear on properly. But, I just got off the airplane, you know, and I saw all the other Marines wearing it under they (sic) belt. And you put it under your belt and flop it over. You probably seen it in the movies. In the Marine Corps you don't that. You wear it on your head or you take it off and you place where it's supposed to be. So he tells me, "Get that cover, your hat, from under your belt. The only thing you wear under your belt is your shoes," whatever. So, right away I'm like, this guy is going to be a pain. I can see it coming. And so I go through processing, and they take me over to the office, the headquarters, where they going to send you through all the paperwork and make sure you're the right person there to do the things, and the first sergeant is looking through my records, and he says, "McMichael. McMichael. You have any relatives in the Marine Corps?" I said, "I have a brother in the Marine Corps." And he said, "What's his name?" And I'm saying, is this guy crazy. I mean, is he a moron? What's his name? If my name McMichael, his name is--. I said my brother, his name--but so, you know, so he wanted to get more than just his last name, you know. Well, come to find out, my brother was upstairs working. My brother was a Sergeant of the Guard upstairs. And so, the first sergeant sent one of the clerks up to get my brother, and my brother comes downstairs. He was immaculate. He was sharp. He was, you know, had his gear on. He was--had the same uniform I had on, but he looked a hell of a lot better in it than I did. I mean, like, wow, 'cause I'd never seen him decked out, you know, and he come down. So I wanted, "Hey." I wanted to go over and see him and so forth. And he says to me--the first sergeant instantly move me from that company and sent me to another duty station fifty miles away, a place called Wahiawa Canal. It was in a little village called Whitmore Village, where Dole Pineapple's fields are, where they raise the Dole Pineapple. And we guarded a building, a building where they monitored all of the action, at that time, that was going on in Vietnam.$So, this is 2000, '99 [1999] or 2000?$$'99 [1999] to 2003.$$2003. Okay.$$I had the privilege of being the [14th] Sergeant Major of the [U.S.] Marine Corps. And as you know, as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, once you have hit the pinnacle of your career, there's nothing else. You know, you leave, you go home, and you're happy that for the rest of your life, you'll be known as the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, you know. Not a sergeant major. Not just a Marine. But you are the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. It didn't happen that way for me. In 2003, upon ready to retire and leaving the Marine Corps as Sergeant Major of the Corps, I asked to stay on active duty and go and create a new billet in NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and be the first Sergeant Major of the Supreme Allied Command of Europe. And I did from 2003 to 2006. And that was the first. And I really loved that because, when I talk about NATO, I wasn't the first African American to become the Sergeant Major of the Supreme Allied Command. I was the first Sergeant Major period. Isn't that the whole goal, is one day you can be just the first person to do something, not the first African--that no one had ever did it before me.$$So no other Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps had achieved to that level?$$No Sergeant Major--nobody period. No--$$That's 2003 to two-thousand and--$$Six [2006].$$Six [2006]. Okay.$$You know, there you went to NATO. They had nineteen countries. They have grown to twenty-something countries now. And all of them were now there for your leadership at the senior listed. And it was foreign to them because they had never had a Sergeant Major. They've always had the Eisenhowers to the Joneses, as President [Dwight] Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander started that--was the first to lead that organization in NATO. And now, you've got a senior enlisted leader in 2003. What will he do. Why do they need it. What will his purpose be. My job was to be just as I was to the commandant, who happened to have been my commandant. When General [James L.] Jones was selected as the Supreme Allied Commander, he went to NATO, and then asked me to join him as his sergeant major. And it's always amazing to me when people say, you know, you made history by being the first African American to be Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. You made history by being the first Sergeant Major of the Supreme Allied Command-Europe. And I said, No. I was history, but I didn't make it. Jim Jones made history by selecting me. If he had never selected me, I would never been able to be part of history. The credit really goes to the man that saw the value in Al McMichael and opened the doors to give him an opportunity. So yes, I am very proud to have been Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. I'm very, very proud to have been the first Sergeant Major to serve as the Supreme Allied Command of Europe, but I'm equally or more proud of the fact that a man of Jim Jones', General James Jones' stature would see the ability in me and then give me the opportunity to display it.

The Honorable Theodore Britton, Jr.

Ambassador Theodore R. Britton Jr. was born on October 17, 1925 in North Augusta, South Carolina to Bessie B. and Theodore R. Britton, Sr. His family relocated to New York City in 1936. Britton left high school in January of 1944 to join the U. S. Marine Corps where he served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. After being discharged, he enrolled at New York University until the beginning of the Korean War. Britton was then called to active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps where he served until May of 1951. He then resumed his studies at New York University and graduated with his B.A. degree in banking and finance in February of 1952.

Britton worked as a mortgage officer and head of the mortgage department at Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association from 1955 to 1964. From there, he became president of the American Baptist Convention and a leader in the non-profit housing field. Britton was then invited to join the federal government by Harry Finger, who was head of Research and Technology in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Britton closed his offices in New York and Pennsylvania and decided to join HUD in 1971 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology. As the HUD official managing international research, his volunteer program for the U. S. Information Agency attracted favorable attention. Britton was nominated by President Gerald R. Ford to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and Grenada and as the U. S. Special Representative to Antigua, Dominica, St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Lucia and St. Vincent on November 17, 1974. Britton was elected as vice-chair of the Group on Urban Affairs at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1971, and later as president. His resignation as Ambassador was accepted by President Jimmy Carter in May of 1977.

Upon retirement, Britton was honored by the City Councils of Newark, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. He presented with the Congressional Gold Medal on June 30, 2012 in recognition of his services with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Montford Point Marines. Britton is a Life Member of the Second Marine Division, Montford Point Marine Association, and the Association for Intelligence Officers. On March 2, 2013, he joined the Marine Corps Commandant and other officials as a U. S. Navy ship was christened to honor the Montford Point Marines. Britton has served as Honorary Consul General for the Republic of Albania since 2006. He is also the Honorary Chairman of Kristal University in Tirana, Albania where her was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree in 2009.

Britton was married in 1950 to the late Ruth B. A. Baker of Fort Worth, Texas. He is currently married to Vernell Elizabeth Stewart of Jacksonville, Florida.

Ambassador Theodore R. Britton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.097

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/9/2013

Last Name

Britton

Maker Category
Middle Name

R.

Schools

High School of Commerce

New York University

American Savings & Loan Institute

Kristal University

Harlem Evening High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Theodore

Birth City, State, Country

Augusta

HM ID

BRI06

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

Equal opportunity means equal responsibility.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

10/17/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chili

Short Description

Sergeant and foreign ambassador The Honorable Theodore Britton, Jr. (1925 - ) served as the U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and Grenada and as the U. S. Special Representative to Antigua, Dominica, St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. On June 30, 2012, Britton was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his services with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Montford Point Marines.

Employment

National Housing Ministries

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

Delete

United States Department of State

Amer Baptist Conv

United Mutual Life Insurance

Carver Federal Savings & Loan

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Theodore R. Britton, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his mother's family background, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his mother's family background, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. gives historical background on the education system in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. explains how his parents met and which parent's personality he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his high school teacher, Mr. L. Walter Stevens

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his jobs in high school and the civil rights activist, Dr. Channing Tobias

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his high school courses and wanting to visit France

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his grades in high school and the 1940s labor movement

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his plans following his high school graduation

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about joining the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his experience after arrival at Montford Point in North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his boot camp training

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes the treatment of blacks in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about drill instructors in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about graduating from boot camp and whites' reaction to black soldiers fighting overseas in World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his experience on the U.S. Navy Ship, "Sea Perch" and the Solomon Islands

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his tour of duty in Guadalcanal

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his experiences while at Camp Paukukalo in Hawaii

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about returning to the United States in 1946

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his involvement with the Society for the Study of Negro History in New York, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his involvement with the Society for the Study of Negro History in New York, pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his involvement in the Greater Harlem Christian Youth Council

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. explains why he pursued a career in banking and finance

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his attendance at New York University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about African American singer, Paul Robeson, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. speaks about his friend John L. Loeb, Jr., pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. speaks about his friend John L. Loeb, Jr., pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about African American singer, Paul Robeson, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes the political climate of the early 1950s

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his involvement in Republican politics

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his career at Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. shares highlights from his career at Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association, pt.1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. shares highlights from his career at Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association, pt.2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his work at the American Baptist Convention

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his recognition by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1969

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about being invited to speak for before the U.S. Information Agency and his nomination for ambassador

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. remembers learning about the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. reminisces about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about important African American leaders of the late 1960s and minority business

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses African American civil rights leader, James Forman

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about former President Richard Nixon's black capitalism initiative

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. speaks about African American diplomats, Horace Dawson and Edward R. Dudley, pt.1

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. speaks about African American diplomats, Horace Dawson and Edward R. Dudley, pt.2

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. explains how former Senator Strom Thurmond helped him become an ambassador

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his ambassadorship to Barbados and Grenada, and meeting Queen Elizabeth II

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about a special moment he had with former President Richard Nixon

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about columnist, Jack Anderson and entertainer, Danny Kaye

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. gives highlights from his career a as chief admission ambassador to Barbados and Grenada, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. gives highlights from his career a as chief admission Ambassador to Barbados and Grenada, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his experience as president of the United Mutual Life Insurance Company

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his position as head of international research for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. explains how photos he took of a police incident in London were used in a trial, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. explains how photos he took of a police incident in London were used in a trial, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. recalls his testimony before the Development Policy in the Caribbean Committee in 1988

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. recounts his international work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. recounts his international work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, pt.2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about the Association of Black American Ambassadors, pt.1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about the Association of Black American Ambassadors, pt.2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his professional activities during Bill Clinton's presidency and being Counsel General to Albania

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. reflects upon his professional legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about having a temperament for diplomacy and taking advantage of educational opportunities

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community and shares his regrets

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses his diplomatic work with Albania

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. discusses People to People International and the perks of being an ambassador

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in New York City
Theodore R. Britton, Jr. describes the treatment of blacks in the U.S. Marine Corps
Transcript
All right, well, let's see. Well, what about New York City? What are your memories of New York City? You were ten [years old] when you moved there.$$Oh, boy, New York City was something, was a real trip. First of all, by the time I reached New York City, although I was 10 years old, I was already in the seventh grade. Whether I was smart or whether they liked me or whatever you--I had been promoted on, you know, quite regularly. Anyway, I, my mother enrolled me at a school in Harlem, P.S. 157. And they determined that children from the South weren't as smart as children from the North. So they put me back to fourth grade, three years, three years. Well, in those days, you didn't challenge authority, especially, if you came from the South. And that'll be something I tough on, later on about Marine Corp life. My parents accepted it, and what, as it was, almost three months later, my father lost his job because the recession came in 1936. Work was stopped on the subway, and people were fired. So he lost his job, and it became necessary to find a new place to live. We had a cousin who owned a little store down in 62nd Street in Manhattan on the lower, on the West side of Manhattan, about mid-Manhattan. She found a job there in the next building for a janitor. And my father took the janitor's job, and we moved down there. This was an entirely different thing. Now, for the first time in my life I was in an integrated type of setting. There were whites around in the block and near the block and so forth. Plus, the schools were integrated. And, again, for some reason, the teachers loved me. I did make some, make up some--a year or two in terms of school age. And throughout my school career, the teachers took a special interest in me. One of my cousins who is still alive tells me that when they were, when we were in class together, at the end of the Christmas or some of the holidays, everybody in the class knew that they were going to get something. The teacher would always bring them gifts. But they always knew that I was going to get something special. Now, I never thought of it. It must have gone straight over my head, but they were always assured that I was gonna get something special. The teachers loved me. Yeah, I went to school in 59th Street, which is right across from what's now John Jay College of Criminal Justice.$$What was the name of the school--$$P.S. 141.$$Okay.$$We had numbers. And from there, after the seventh grade, I went down to the P.S. 69, which is on 54th Street and 6th Avenue. It was about that time, by the way, that economics suddenly began to teach me something. My parents were on home relief. That's what they called it in those days. Welfare was still a new term in the future. And there wasn't much--by the way, Jim, James Dumpson became the first commissioner in the New York City government. He became the secretary of--no, the Commissioner of Welfare. And anyway, as I said, I--we were on home relief, but it didn't give me enough to take care of my needs. For example, when I was leaving P.S. 141, all of the boys were dressed up in different things. But I didn't have any special things. So I began to shine shoes for a living. And now, if you ever know anything about Manhattan, on the West side of Manhattan is where all of the major ships from Europe would dock. There were the Piers. The Kinnard Line which was British, the German line, the French line, the Italian line and others, Sweden line. So I began shining shoes, and within a week or so, I was giving money to the family to help them along. And to that date--it must have been about 1938, I've never had to ever ask my family for anything, nor anybody else. I've always taken care of myself.$In fact, it got many, some of them in trouble because they acted as if they wouldn't take any stuff off anyone. One of our sort of icons in the military, Edgar Huff, was a sergeant. He went home in Alabama and he was arrested for impersonating a Marine. And the colonel in charge of the camp who was in charge--who had, was from South Carolina--from Virginia, he had attended the Citadel in South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, personally drove down to Alabama and got him out of jail. And I have stories of my friend, Ed Fiser (ph.) who is up in the home in Massachusetts now recuperating from the amputation, who was sitting waiting for a bus to take him to Charlotte [North Carolina] so that he could get a train going to New Orleans [Louisiana]. And in the course of it--to Raleigh [North Carolina], I'm sorry. In the course of it, this big Marine came in who had been fighting in Guadalcanal and said, "When did they put you guys in the Marine Corps?" And he said, "Well, there's a lot of 'em over there." He said, we have a huge camp over there. And he said, I didn't know they had black Marines, and they got on talking. And he said, well, by the way, why aren't you getting on the bus? And he said, well, they take only whites first, and afterwards, they take us. And each time the bus gets filled up, they pull out, and so that's why I've been missing two buses so far. He said, "You're ready to go?". And he said, "Yeah". So this white Marine called the station manager over and said, listen, you see that man. He said, when the next bus goes out of here, I wanna see his ass on one of them seats or your brains on this floor, you hear? He's a Marine. And when the next bus pulled out, there was Fiser sitting on his seat, headed out. And this began something that I've begun to kind of retrace my steps and see how white Marines began to befriend the black Marines. For example, the buses, bus drivers at some times would become very arbitrary and would refuse to take the guys back to the camp. Now, this could have been serious trouble for them, except that when white Marines found out about it, they would throw the white drivers off the bus, take over the bus and drive the black guys back to camp. Yeah, and this happened so consistently. One night, one of the fellows had been mistreated in Jacksonville [North Carolina], the little town there. It was very racist, and so the guys had decided that they were gonna go into the town and tear the town apart. We had tanks at that time, plus cannons and machine guns and everything else. And the colonel came down in his nightshirt, and he said, boys, he said, please don't do it. It won't help. And the word got around that if they did, they would get the colonel in trouble. And the last thing the guys wanted to do was to lose this colonel. They loved him so much. So on that basis, they broke it up and went back. I've heard a lot of stories about some of the guys being mistreated and rough. I always said the Marine Corps was very democratic. It treated everybody like dogs.$$Or maggots really (laughter).$$Yeah, yeah (laughter). So I never, for some reason, I never--the extremes on either one never made me feel bad or demoralized, and the extremes on the other side never made me feel too exhilarated. And over the years, I've begun to conclude that people are people, and there's no such thing as the perfect one or that someone's extremely bad or extremely good because one of the people who did so much for me was a man named Senator Strom Thurmond, who asked me to help him to become adjusted to the Twenty-First Century. He had a young wife, of course, a young daughter.$$Now, that's a story that comes up later, right, but--$$Yes, yes, yes--$$About the--(simultaneous)--$$--and I've had so many other people as I said, who treated me so royalty. I'm not sure I ever deserved it, but nevertheless, that's the treatment I got.

Joe Geeter, III

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Joseph H. Geeter was born in Chicago, Illinois. He earned his B.S. degree in management from Park College. In January 1976, Geeter enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and underwent training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Basic Logistics School where he graduated as a class honor graduate.

During his first enlistment, Geeter served in all three active Marine Divisions and earned meritorious promotion to Corporal in 1978. In 1981, Geeter was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Beaufort, South Carolina where he served in logistics and participated in the NATO exercise Ocean Venture in 1982. He soon transferred to Okinawa, Japan and became the Assistant Group Logistics Chief and Platoon Sergeant, Headquarters and Service Company of the 3rd Force Service Support Group (FSSG). He was then reassigned in 1984 to MCAS, Beaufort and served as the Logistics Chief of Marine Air Control Squadron Five where he coordinated and participated in several field exercises. In 1991, Geeter was deployed to the Republic of the Philippines and served as the Operations Chief and Detachment Gunnery Sergeant for Combat Service Support Detachment-35 in support of MAGTF 4-90. He soon transferred to Okinawa and served as the Logistics Chief of the Tactical Exercise Control Group in the 3rd Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group, III MEF. During this tour, Geeter participated in Cobra Gold ‘95 in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Geeter completed the Equal Opportunity Advisor’s Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute and was promoted to Master Gunnery Sergeant in 1999. He then was assigned as the Equal Opportunity Advisor to the Air Station Commanding Officer aboard MCAS, Beaufort. After retiring in 2001, Geeter was appointed as the Corporate Employee Relations Manager at the corporate offices of AmeriGas Propane.

Geeter served as the 16th National President of the Montford Point Marine Association from 2005 to 2009. During the 2010 National Convention, Geeter was inducted into the Montford Point Marine Association Hall-of-Fame. Geeter also served as the National Legislative Officer and the National Public Relations officer for the Montford Point Marine Association. He is also a lifetime member of the NAACP, the 1st & 3rd Marine Division Associations, and the American Legion.

In 1998, Geeter received a Special President's Award from the National President of the Montford Point Marine Association for his work with the Beaufort Chapter, and the James Calendar Award in 1999 for his continued efforts on a national level for the Montford Point Marine Association. He was honored with the prestigious NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award for his significant contributions to the Marine Corps in the area of equal opportunity and community involvement. Geeter’s military honors include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Joseph H. Geeter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 26, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.086

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/26/2013

Last Name

Geeter

Maker Category
Middle Name

Henry

Schools

Morgan Park High School

Park University

Holy Name of Mary School

Mendel Catholic Preparatory High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joe

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GEE01

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Saint Martin

Favorite Quote

If You Can't Find Time To Do It Right, When Will You Find Time To Do It Again

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

9/17/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Noncommissioned officer Joe Geeter, III (1958 - ) was the 16th National President of the Montford Point Marine Association. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after twenty-five years of service, and became the corporate relations manager for AmeriGas Propane, Inc.

Employment

United States Marine Corps

AmeriGas Propane

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:345,49:8763,264:14024,320:16360,379:22392,450:23256,469:24192,506:24768,648:60306,1008:66326,1147:66842,1155:79970,1378:86387,1464:87602,1495:100717,1792:102369,1876:111667,2013:113784,2071:114295,2080:117069,2131:128854,2328:132262,2392:146494,2576:151174,2708:152974,2756:157222,2853:158662,2887:159166,2900:164948,2939:167646,3024:171764,3150:190261,3579:190529,3589:190797,3594:192003,3619:207376,3895:208168,3908:208600,3917:209320,3928:211840,3998:215152,4089:216016,4116:226858,4322:228244,4406:235658,4557:236753,4579:239162,4666:242009,4747:242593,4756:261120,4975:261680,4985:269010,5127$0,0:886,5:4755,104:11836,291:16581,390:18917,440:19501,449:31754,676:38156,825:48450,986:49010,996:69607,1344:85498,1593:90657,1742:90925,1747:91461,1756:95749,1860:111320,2067:112460,2155:114208,2188:120654,2435:186230,3680:186650,3687:191550,3779:198980,3888
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joe Geeter, III's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his maternal grandfather's military service

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his paternal grandfather's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III describes his father's work experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his early neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his early experiences with religion

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his childhood interest in sports

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers the 1969 World Series

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III describes his favorite subjects in school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his maternal grandfather's mentorship

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III remembers transferring to Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his favorite high school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III remembers joining the bowling team in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III recalls complications prior to starting boot camp

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his early experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III recalls searching for his estranged father

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his administrative graduation from boot camp

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his decision to fight at U.S. Marine Corps boot camp

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers being denied the right to vote at boot camp

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III describes his experience with racism at Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his experiences at logistics school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III talks about military representations in the media

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his assignments after logistics school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his work at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III recalls moving to the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III describes his promotion record

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his time stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III recalls becoming a recruiter in Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his recruiting assignment in Joliet, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III recalls reuniting with his maternal grandmother

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III describes his recruiting philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III remembers reconnecting with paternal family

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his first encounter with the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III remembers teaching lessons about African Americans who served in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III describes the history of African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the Persian Gulf War

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III describes how Jimmie Howard received the Congressional Medal of Honor

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III remembers meeting Jimmie Howard

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III talks about preserving Jimmie Howard's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his last duty station in Beaufort, South Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III remembers training a second lieutenant, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III remembers training a second lieutenant, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III recalls training to become an equal opportunity advisor

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his last U.S. Marine Corps position

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his decision to leave the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his awards

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his first civilian position at AmeriGas Propane, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his transition to civilian life

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III remembers being the national president of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the formation of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III recalls lobbying for the Congressional Gold Medal for the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Joe Geeter, III remembers rallying support in Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Gold Medal bill

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III recalls having to re-lobby after the 2010 midterm elections

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III remembers the vote for the Congressional Gold Medal

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III describes the aftermath of the congressional vote

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III recalls the support of the original Montford Point Marines

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the support of AmeriGas Propane, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III reflects upon his military legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III describes the impact of his U.S. Marine Corps career has had on his private sector career

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III recalls making the Montford Point Marines documentaries

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the importance of the Montford Pointers Marine Association, Inc. in his life

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III describes his family's support of his endeavors

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

12$7

DATitle
Joe Geeter, III recalls his administrative graduation from boot camp
Joe Geeter, III describes the history of African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps
Transcript
Is this like when you're in the Marines, did you like the feeling of being part of a team or?$$ It was. It was part of belonging. I was a recruiter so I know those intangibles that the [U.S.] Marine Corps sells and I bought into it and I wanted to be a part of that team. So despite--some folks still didn't want us there and when I say us, I mean African Americans. It was pretty tough in boot camp when they put the white platoon leaders, the squad leaders, the guide [guidon bearer], they were all white and they were tough on us. They were tough on me.$$Did they give you racial insults and--?$$ Oh absolutely, every day. Every day but that was--I can give as good as I got though, so yeah.$$Okay. What was the toughest part of boot camp [at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, San Diego, California]?$$ Not graduating with my platoon?$$Okay, well what happened?$$ Got into a fight a couple of days from graduation. That same old guy that was just throwing these epithets at me and talking about me, I got an opportunity to get him in a corner and I took advantage of it. Yeah, that was tough. But I wasn't going to let him go back to Texas talking about how he bossed around African Americans. So I made sure I gave him a little something to remember me by. But I got caught.$$Okay.$$ Yeah, so that was tough.$$So did you have a reasonable chance of not being caught?$$ I didn't think I was going to get caught. We were about a week from graduation when we're thinking we're going to be Marines, we were very close to being Marines and he had said something to me and my bunk mate and I think it was, had something to do with my buckle, my brass buckle. He did something to it and I got a chance to get him what we called the hot locker at the time where we stored detergent and things of that nature. And the drill sergeant really trusted us then because we had gone through seventy-two, seventy-three days of boot camp. It was only seventy-eight days in boot camp, we was almost at graduation. So they weren't in the squad at the time but this guy came into the hot locker when I was in there and I just took advantage of him and tried to knock him out. Yeah, but then that wasn't the right thing to do then either here 'cause we got caught and when we went in front of the captain for what we, what I now know was office hours. And the captain just had one question, "Who threw the first punch?" And of course it was me. So I had to do seven days in what they call correctional--correctional custody there, so seven days in the brig.$$And when you got out of the brig I mean you had, did you have to do boot camp all over again?$$ Interesting story, that's probably the first time I'm really telling this publicly but when I got out of the boot camp, I went in front of an administrative officer. I think it was a major at the time and I completed three of the four final steps for boot camp. So he told me that, said, "You have a couple of choices here." He said, "I could send you back to the platoon that's going to graduate next week and you can finish your final inspection," which was the fourth of the four things you had to do to graduate. He said, "So the Marine Corps is really not the thing for you there young man because you really lost your discipline and your bearing and maybe you shouldn't be a Marine." So he said, "I could administratively discharge you right here, right now and you go back to Chicago [Illinois]." And the third choice I thought was very interesting. He says, "I can administratively graduate you from boot camp because you've completed most of the necessary tasks to graduate and I can have you on an airplane in a couple of hours back to Chicago." Guess what I took? I got on the airplane back to Chicago and graduated administratively.$$Okay.$$ So when I went to recruiter school in 1987, part of recruiter school is to attend a graduation because these are the kids you're going to put in the Marine Corps to graduate. And I remember looking over to the guy next to me, I says, "You know this is my first time really seeing a graduation." And he says, "Joe [HistoryMaker Joe Geeter, III], you graduated from boot camp," and when I told him, "No I didn't," he was absolutely flabbergasted. He said, "You what? You never graduated from boot camp?" And I never went to the ceremony. And so it was pretty weird. I never met anybody that didn't graduate from boot camp, but I didn't graduate.$$So he gave you an administrative graduation--$$ From boot camp.$$--and then you flew back to Chicago for R and R [rest and relaxation] (unclear)?$$ Yeah, I had ten days off.$$Ten days off.$$ Actually a little bit more than ten days because I was scheduled to graduate December 22nd I believe and I think I went to correctional custody on December 17th or something like that. So it was right before Christmas. So they extended my time instead of the normal ten days I think I got like twelve or thirteen days, so I didn't have to report back to my next duty station 'til January 3rd; so I had a couple of weeks back home after boot camp.$Well this is as good a time as any, just kind of give us sort of a sketch of the history of mon- of the blacks in the U.S. Marine Corps.$$ Oh that's the easy stuff there.$$All right.$$ Well prior to World War II [WWII], there were no blacks in the Marine Corps. There are some documented cases of blacks serving during revolutionary times but they didn't serve as open enlisted Marines, most of the time they have served in the stead of somebody else during revolutionary times. Blacks had served in the [U.S.] Army. The Buffalo Soldiers people are familiar with them, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment [54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment]. Everybody saw them most people have seen the film 'Glory' with Denzel Washington. Blacks have served in the [U.S.] Navy since revolutionary times too. The [U.S.] Air Force wasn't in existence yet. It didn't come into existence 'til 1948, but there were no blacks in the Marine Corps. Around that time blacks were starting to fight for jobs in the [U.S.] Department of Defense. And a gentleman named A. Philip Randolph was really petitioning Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to open up the defense agency for African Americans. And he actually threatened a march on Washington [D.C.] in 1941 to make his point. And we all know that I think 1942 is an election year and Franklin Delano Roosevelt really needed the black vote. So June of 1941, he signed an Executive Order 8802, which allowed for blacks to have, to compete for jobs in the Department of Defense, specifically in the Marine Corps. So that document is very important to, it should be important to all Marines, but particularly the African American, the Montford Point Marines because that document allowed them to become Marines. Now although that document was signed in 1941, the Marine Corps didn't start accepting blacks until June of 1942, fully a full year after an executive order. That's because the Marines didn't want us. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Thomas Holcomb at the time didn't want blacks in the Marine Corps. He was asked if it was a choice between 250 blacks or five thousand whites, which would you take? His answer was, I'd rather have the whites. And you got to keep in mind, this is the commandant of the Marine Corps, we're on the verge of World War II, if not in World War II at the time, but his disdain for African Americans was so deep that he just didn't want them in the Marine Corps. But he has a, an executive order that he has to comply with. So after about a year of going back and forth with Frank Knox who was the secretary of the navy at the time, the Marine Corps finally complied with the executive order and they started enlisting blacks on 1 June 1942. But these blacks did not go to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego [San Diego, California] like I did or Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island [Parris Island, South Carolina] like most Marines go to. They went to a place in Camp Lejeune [Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina], originally called Mumford Point [sic.]. It changed to Montford Point [Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, Jacksonville, North Carolina] and I really don't know the origin on how it changed but the tract of land was Mumford, M-U-M-F-O-R-D [sic.], but it ended up being called Montford, M-O-N-T-F-O-R-D. And it was located on New River, about eighty miles from the big base being built called Camp Lejeune. So it was a separate facility that no more than woods and trees and bears and mosquitoes and they had to build those first arrivals there almost had to build the base. So from 1942 to 1949, approximately twenty thousand men went through Montford Point; and those men became known as the chosen few, the first black Marines. And that was very, very important to me to learn this history and to know this history.

Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Major Carlton W. Kent was born on November 5, 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. Kent graduated from South Side High School in Memphis. His military education includes graduating from the Army Airborne School and Parachute Riggers School in 1981, the Marine Corps Drill Instructor School in 1989, and the Army Sergeants Major Academy in 1994.

In 1976, Kent completed recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina and was assigned to the 1st Marine Brigade. Kent was transferred to the Marine Security Guard Battalion where he served as a Marine security guard at the American Embassy in Kinshasa, Zaire and Panama. In 1983, Kent reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California for duty as a drill instructor, senior drill instructor, and battalion drill master with the First Battalion. Kent was meritoriously promoted to Gunnery Sergeant in 1985. Following his promotion, Kent briefly served as Platoon Sergeant with the 3rd Air Delivery Platoon, and then reported to Hawaii where he was assigned Company Gunnery Sergeant with the Engineer Company, 1st Marine Brigade. In February 1990, Kent was promoted to First Sergeant and assigned as First Sergeant, Marine Aviation and Training Support Group, Pensacola, Florida.

Following his graduation from the Army Sergeants Major Academy in 1994, Kent was assigned as First Sergeant, and then later as Sergeant Major of the 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. In May 2001, Kent was transferred to Stuttgart, Germany where he was assigned to the position of Sergeant Major of Marine Forces in Europe. In 2004, Kent reported to Camp Pendleton, California to serve as the Sergeant Major of the I Marine Expeditionary Force. He was appointed as the 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in April 2007 and served in this position until June 2011.

Kent’s military honors include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Gold Star, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and the Combat Action Ribbon. He is the recipient of the General Gerald C. Thomas Award for leadership.

U.S. Sergeant Major Carlton W. Kent was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 16, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.052

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/16/2013

Last Name

Kent

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

W.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

South Side High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Carlton

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

KEN05

Favorite Season

Thanksgiving

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Devil Dog!

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/5/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Frosted Flakes

Short Description

Sergeant major Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent (1957 - ) was the 16th Sergeant Major of the United States Marine Corps

Employment

United States Marine Corps

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carlton W. Kent's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carlton W. Kent lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carlton W. Kent describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carlton W. Kent describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carlton W. Kent tells which parent he takes after and discusses his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carlton W. Kent describes growing up in Memphis, Tennessee and shares his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carlton W. Kent describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carlton W. Kent describes his childhood neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carlton W. Kent describes his involvement in the church as a youth and attending elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carlton W. Kent discusses his various childhood jobs and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carlton W. Kent talks about being suspended from his junior high school, describes his academic performance, and playing team sports

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carlton W. Kent discusses the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carlton W. Kent describes his experience in high school with bussing

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carlton W. Kent discusses his high school education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carlton W. Kent talks about joining the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carlton W. Kent talks about graduating from high school and starting U.S. Marine Corps boot camp

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carlton W. Kent describes his U.S. Marine Corps boot camp training pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carlton W. Kent describes his U.S. Marine Corps boot camp training pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carlton W. Kent describes his marksmanship and swim training during boot camp

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carlton W. Kent discusses his fellow U.S. Marine Corps recruits

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carlton W. Kent describes the most difficult part of his boot camp training

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carlton W. Kent talks about graduating from basic training in 1976

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carlton W. Kent discusses his assignment to the First Marine Brigade in Hawaii

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carlton W. Kent talks about his mentors in boot camp and his tour of duty in Zaire

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carlton W. Kent describes his tour of duty in Panama and compares it to his tour in Zaire

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carlton W. Kent describes attending Army Airborne School at Fort Benning pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carlton W. Kent talks about attending Army Airborne School at Fort Benning pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carlton W. Kent discusses his promotions to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carlton W. Kent describes his experiences as a Platoon Sergeant

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carlton W. Kent discusses becoming a drill instructor and his promotion to Gunnery Sergeant

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carlton W. Kent describes his career as a Gunnery Sergeant

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carlton W. Kent talks about the Gulf War and his job as a drill instructor for the Training in Aviation Officer Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carlton W. Kent describes his duties as a First Sergeant in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carlton W. Kent discusses women in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carlton W. Kent talks about race relations in the military and the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carlton W. Kent describes his role as a Battalion Sergeant Major and his promotion to Sergeant Major of regiment recruit training

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carlton W. Kent describes his experience as the Sergeant Major of the Marine Forces-Europe and remembers 9/11

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carlton W. Kent discusses military deployment into Iraq following 9/11

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carlton W. Kent discusses military operations in Fallujah during the Iraq War pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carlton W. Kent discusses military operations in Fallujah during the Iraq War pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carlton W. Kent describes the process he went through in order to become Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carlton W. Kent discusses the press coverage of U.S. soldiers in Fallujah and the Iraqi people's reaction to the soldiers

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carlton W. Kent discusses his nomination to Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in 2007

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carlton W. Kent discusses what the election of President Barack Obama meant to him and reflects on highlights from his career in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carlton W. Kent reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carlton W. Kent describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community and talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carlton W. Kent talks about the transition of veterans into civilian life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Carlton W. Kent discusses recommending U.S. Marine Corps service to others and shares how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Carlton W. Kent describes his U.S. Marine Corps boot camp training pt.1
Carlton W. Kent discusses his nomination to Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in 2007
Transcript
Okay. Now tell us about hell.$$Okay. And the drill instructors come there they pick us up; and again, this is nighttime. They were--you know, Marines are really good at doing everything at night for some reason. So we were tired. We had been up for, like, four days just constantly doing things to get us prepped to--for our drill instructors to pick us up. So they take us over to squad bay, we, you know, they get us into the showers. Now, this is--you learn very fast. You don't use the restroom, you don't drink water, you don't think anything without asking the drill instructor first. You don't move. You stand at attention until the drill instructors tell you to do anything differently. So as they got us in the squad bay, they got this line that goes down on both sides of the squad bay where we got footlockers, you got all that. So when they get us in the squad bay, the drill instructors give us--well, the senior drill instructor is the senior guy of this whole drill instructor team, and it was three drill instructors, counting the senior drill instructor. So he gives us a spiel that he's going to be our mother, he's going to be our father, he's going to take care of us for the next 13 weeks; you don't breathe, you don't eat, you don't do this, you don't do that until you ask us; and if you do it any other way, you're going to have hell to pay. So the senior drill instructor tells the drill instructors "Turn 2." "Turn 2" means that when hell break out. So they had these big soapy trash--big trash cans with hot soapy water, so they threw it down through the middle of the squad bay. The footlockers, they had us dump all our gear in to the footlockers; all our shaving gear, cleaning gear, everything; to the footlockers, they started turning the footlockers over with all our gear in it. And we had bunks, you had a top bunk and bottom bunk. So they took the mattresses off of them. I mean, they just tore up the whole squad bay. So, you know what we had to do? Clean the whole squad bay. That took hours to unscrew the squad bay. And then it's late at night, so you're getting into that early morning. So you finally get a chance to go to sleep, like, 1 a.m. in the morning, just to get woken back up by the drill instructors the next day. And, now, imagine this too; when you go to sleep, you sleep at attention throughout the night. And if you didn't sleep at attention, we had recruits what we used to call "Fire Watchers." That was to--we rotated every four hours and we'll walk around the squad bay to make sure everybody was sleeping at attention.$$Now, how do you sleep at attention? Do you--$$You sleep at attention just like (laughs)--$$You lay down and--$$You lay down just like if you were standing at attention, you lay at attention.$$And you sleep at attention?$$And you sleep at attention.$$And every night, prior to us going to sleep, the drill instructors used to make us count off, and then we sung the Marines hymn every night, then they would tell you to get in the rack, attack. And when they say attack, you jump in the rack and you jump at attention in the rack. Then they say, "Goodnight, Chesty Puller." That was one of our famous Marine heroes, Chesty Puller. So you used to say, "Goodnight, Chesty Puller, wherever you are." (laughs). And then the lights go off, and then they say, "Sleep." The drill instructors say sleep. So the Fire Watchers walk around at night, and if you weren't at the position of attention, you got woken up. They say, "Get at attention." And then the next day the same thing happened, a day after day where the drill instructors came in--and this happened, like, the first week of training--this was the breakdown period, you know, where they got you out of your whole way of life that you'd had been--they build you up as a team because they want to get you out of, you know, the areas--like me, I came from South Memphis, I had a different attitude; you got people from New York, down in Georgia. So they wanted to get you out of your mindset that you had grew for the last 17, 18 years and put you into the Marine Corps mindset as working as a team. So that every morning for the first week, they would come down, wake us up. When the lights come on, you better be on that line at attention, and then you count off so they make sure all the recruits are there. You count off one by one. And then this hot, soapy water, trash cans come back down through the squad bay, and you clean it up again. Then you go to--then they march you to eat in the morning, and the crazy thing about that, the first week when we grab our trays to go through the chow line, the drill instructor would tell you what to get and what not to get. So you didn't have much food on your plate. So for the first week when we sit down to take a bite, at each meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they'll let the food get on your lips, and then they'll tell you, "You're done. Get out." And I'm like, "whoa." I mean, that's a breaking period. And we had some recruits, that first week they were done. They were done. So that's how they start building the team.$Okay. So, 2007, you're nominated to become the 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.$$Yes.$$And succeeding Sergeant Major John L. Estrada.$$Estrada, yes. African-American.$$Okay. All right. So, well, now, this is the second time you'd been interviewed for this position, right? And so what happened this second time?$$The second time when I went in, I flat out--and quite naturally, I as planning on, you know, retiring in 2008; that was the plan. But, when I got the call I was totally shocked, to be honest with you. I thought I had passed up on my only chance, but I was okay not being the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, because I had felt that, I mean, it was just an honor to be able to serve with all these Marines over my--back then it was 31 years or so. So I was just honored to be able to do that. So, you know, being a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps would have been an honor, but I was okay, you know, retiring in 2008. So when I got the call, I felt I was truly blessed at that time to be a second time around. And, plus, I was blessed because the Commandant at that time, General [James] Conway, was also the Commanding General when I was the I MEF [I Marine Expeditionary Force] Sergeant Major; so we had a common bond, and we knew each other, and my wife [Elizabeth Kent] knew his wife very well. So that was--we were blessed on that part. But it was no guarantee during the interview that I was going to be the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps or he was going to pick me, and I knew that that. So when I walked in, I mean, during the interview process, I mean, it went very well. About a week later, I get a call from his office saying, "Hey, are you available because the Commandant and his wife is flying out to California and they want to take ya'll out to dinner?" So I thought to myself, I said, "Okay. It's a couple of things here: one, I'm going home 2008 and I'm okay with that or he's going to ask me to be the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps," you know, me and my wife, Liz. And when he came out there, we went to dinner; had a great dinner, and he looked at my wife (laughs), because spouses run the household, and we already know that. We can pretend like we're in charge, but we're not. So he looked at Liz and he said, "Liz, what do you think about coming back to [Washington] D.C., you know, and joining us?" And I'm, like, "Wow." So, I mean, that was--that was a great night for us, and it was a great tour being a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, because instead of doing it at those levels, taking care of Marines, Sailors, and families at the level I just told you about; Battalion, you know, you go to Regiment, you go to Division, you go to MEF; now, I have an opportunity to take care of Marines throughout the whole Marine Corps and Sailors and their family. And my wife, Liz, she's a great teammate of mine. And she love families, so it was just a joy for us for four and a half years to go around the Marine Corps and talk to Marines, Sailors, families, and see what their issues are. And the Commandant, we traveled around together with him and his wife. The present Commandant that's serving right now, General [James F.] Amos and his wife, and Liz; I spent nine months once the previous Commandant, the 34th Commandant transitioned, the 35th Commandant, he asked me to stay on. So I stayed on for nine months with him, and it was an honor to serve with him also, because both of them are superb leaders and they care about people, and that's what makes it special.

Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman was born on August 27, 1948. Coleman graduated from Cheney University in 1973. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1974. Coleman’s military education includes the Basic School, the Amphibious Warfare School, the Command and Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Coleman enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April of 1968, and was discharged upon his return from Vietnam in 1970. He was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant in December of 1974. In 1982, Coleman was transferred to Marine Corps headquarters in the officer assignment branch and served as administrative assistant to the director of the personnel management division. In June of 1991, Coleman reported to the Marine Corps headquarters and served as the logistics project officer in the installations and logistics branch. In 1996, he reported to the Pentagon where he served as the deputy division chief in the Logistic Readiness Center. Coleman also served as an instructor at the Amphibious Warfare School and the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College.

In 1999, Coleman deployed to the Balkan Region and served with Joint Task Force Shining Hope. Coleman was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as Commanding General of the Marine Air and Ground Task Force in 2003. He deployed again in 2004 as the Commanding General of the Combined Joint Task Force Haiti in support of Operation Secure Democracy. On September 29, 2006, Coleman was assigned as the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs and appointed to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Coleman’s military honors and decoration include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the French Legion of Honor, and the Meritorious Service Medal. The Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with five service stars, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Coleman also wears the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge. He is married and has five daughters.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen Ronald S. Coleman was interviewed by The History Makers on February 16, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.050

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/16/2013

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Middle Name

S.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Darby-Colwyn Senior High School

The Basic School

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Expeditionary Warfare School

Marine Corps Command and Staff College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ronald

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

COL22

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/27/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Short Description

Lieutenant general Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman (1948 - ) advanced in rank to Lieutenant General on October 27, 2006 and became the second African American in the Marine Corps to reach the 3-star rank.

Employment

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:4686,130:5742,156:20454,324:36640,542:36920,547:41260,627:41890,638:42170,643:42590,655:42870,660:47558,698:49926,740:50666,755:51110,763:59184,901:66650,945:67040,952:67950,978:71534,1029:72686,1052:80794,1138:86715,1205:87060,1211:87888,1229:101354,1380:102950,1414:126106,1880:128050,1885:132916,1985:136986,2065:145105,2182:145755,2193:151337,2256:153131,2312:153890,2326:157115,2361:157765,2373:158090,2384:158415,2390:158675,2397:158935,2402:171400,2599:177999,2679:180310,2700$0,0:15288,171:15904,181:20392,284:28450,393:28900,400:29725,412:34575,434:35050,440:42460,572:48640,599:49115,605:64842,807:69756,906:70146,912:70536,918:73890,991:75372,1017:84698,1070:91819,1116:105848,1327:113856,1431:115676,1456:116313,1465:118770,1500:131155,1638:138002,1707:148082,1795:152522,1879:153928,1918:158060,1938:160460,1981:161060,1991:163460,2044:163835,2050:165185,2146:180597,2362:182178,2386:183294,2401:187250,2422:187835,2434:193035,2586:193295,2591:194270,2605:197845,2708:209272,2924:215605,3014:219870,3171:233412,3328:236234,3369:237728,3388:238143,3394:246762,3508:250434,3613:252533,3627:253387,3656:260669,3826:263020,3837
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ronald S. Coleman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about how his parents met and the tension between his mother and father's families

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his parents' personalities and his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his family's success despite their hardships and his maternal grandmother's positive influence

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his relationship with his maternal grandmother and paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman describes growing up in Darby, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses the importance of sports in his young life

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman comments on his primary and secondary education, and Pennsylvania basketball

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his favorite subjects and teachers in school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his junior high school, watching television and playing little league baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about playing sports after school and his summer jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about playing sports in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his high school coaches, student council and his academic performance

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his high school's championship games and playing high school football

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses the poor counseling he received in high school and his college plans

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about attending church with his family as a youth and Northeastern University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman explains why he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about joining the U.S. Navy Reserve

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his basic training in the U.S. Navy and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his tour of duty in Vietnam

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman recalls the public criticism of the Vietnam War, as well as his return to the U.S.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the return of the black soldiers to Darby, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses the black community's response to Vietnam veterans and his reluctance to remain in the service

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman uses his family as an example to explain the black community's response to Vietnam veterans

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about Vietnam and returning to school in the states

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about teaching and his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the U.S. Marine Corps' Officers Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the most difficult part of Officer Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the racist treatment of blacks in the military

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his first assignment at Camp Lejeune and his completion of Officer Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses attending Amphibious Warfare School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses working for the Officer Assignment Branch

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman remembers the bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut and the invasion of Grenada

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about attending U.S. Marine Corps Command Staff College

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his tour of duty in Okinawa, Japan and the Gulf War

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his unit's role in the Gulf War and his assignment at Camp Lejeune

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his attendance at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his work at the Pentagon and assignment in Albania

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman describes the military's assistance to refugees in Albania

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his promotion to brigadier general and the death of his parents

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his wife's colon cancer

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his deployments to Kuwait and Haiti

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman details his assignment in Haiti, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman details his assignment in Haiti, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about becoming a three star general

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman comments on the historical significance of being a three star general

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his role as deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his family, reflects upon his legacy and shares his regrets

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his hopes and concerns for the African-American community and how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
Ronald S. Coleman explains why he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve
Ronald S. Coleman discusses his work at the Pentagon and assignment in Albania
Transcript
Were you playing ball then?$$Oh yeah, played basketball. That's the only thing I played, played basketball for them, and I was a good basketball player on that team. I was one of the stars on the team, as a starter.$$You played guard?$$Guard. Yes.$$Okay.$$That part of it was good but when basketball season was over, it just, you know it didn't work out, so I dropped out and then that's when I got my--I dropped out and I worked as a--I worked at a cemetery digging ditches and cutting grass and all that sort of stuff. I mean I'd make good money but it was--$$Now why did you--I mean I--it's just like now, if you're in school and they want you to come back and all that, I mean why did you feel so unfulfilled?$$It just--I don't--I expected to be really, really motivated, and it just wasn't--well, part of it was there were probably--I don't know how many students but not a lot--there was a handful of black students. And it wasn't a racial thing I didn't go back, I just wasn't being--I think I was wasting the--even though I wasn't paying because I had the student loans and I worked. It just didn't feel like I was getting anything out of it. And in order--I would have had to go at least three years to a junior college to get an Associate's Degree. So I said "Na"--and I didn't--but again now, my father's still an alcoholic, my mother's working hard, I had no direction, no guidance so I moved back home, I worked at a cemetery for a while, and then I worked as an exterminator. So my job was to go around spraying for bugs.$$Those sound like t0o dreary (laughter) (simultaneous)--$$Oh yeah. Oh really (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)--cemetery and sprayin' for bugs, I mean that's a--$$--I mean you're standing there and you're hitting the button and the thing's going down. Like I said, I had no guidance, I had no direct--I just, I didn't know, I had no clue what I was gonna do with the rest of my life. So a group of us went up and somebody said "Hey, you know, let's join the Reserves, you know? We'll join the Navy Reserves and, you know, we won't go anywhere; if we do go, it won't be"--so uhh, probably about five of us, maybe six, drove up to the recruiting office and said "Hey, we wanna enlist in the Navy--in the Navy Reserve." Because then you know you're gonna do a year before you go anywhere. So when they said "Step forward and raise your right hand," only three of us did. And I'm up front, and then when it's all over, I turn around and (laughter) it's like five of 'em that said "Naw, I'm not steppin' forward." But I had no clue. So Laney Womack, Blair Trent, who was a cousin, stepped up with me, and the other five guys were still standing there.$Okay. So in '96 [1996], you were Deputy Division Chief of the Logistics Readiness Center, right? Is that true?$$Inaudible response--$$'96 [1996].$$'96 [1996], yes. But that was, that was--oh, in the Pentagon; I'm sorry, yeah. Yes, I'm sorry; I'm sorry. Yeah, I left--when I left school, I went to the Pentagon and did, and did two years at the Pentagon; Logistics Readiness Center. Now that's where every ship that's underway, every airplane that's underway on the Logis--non-combat, we know about--has to, has to go through--that's probably one of the, one of the more interesting tours you could have. So everything that happens in the United States Department of Defense logistics-wise, someone in there would know what was going on and, and give guidance or recommendations.$$Okay. So you made full colonel there too?$$I made full--I got promoted to full colonel there and that was the one we spoke about that my mother [Barbara Gretchen Hill Coleman] was gonna make but didn't make it so I got promoted there in '97 [1997].$$Okay. So your mom passed that year?$$Yes.$$Okay. Now in--but then you were stationed at yeah, Camp Lejeune, right?$$Right, I went, I went down in--after that, I went down to Camp Lejeune, got to Camp Lejeune in '98 [1998], and I was the the G4; so that means I was--that meant I was in charge of all logistics for the division; another, very challenging, challenging job. And while I was there, that was the, the next big deployment; that's when we went to Albania; this was Milosevic and, and the whole, the whole bit going on over there. So we were attached to a joint task for Shining Hope, which was to assist the refugees in in Albania. And that was an Air Force led unit but with Marines in it.$$Emm. So that was a, really a--$$Aww, that was, that was big. I mean we went from--they went from nothing to building a camp up in Albania because you know--remember the people are leaving Macedonia with nothing so we're putting up camps and built camps so they could live in and you'd actually watch them pulling their wagons with all their belongings, a family with all their belongings pulling them in and we, we got them health and comfort and the whole bit so that was, that was a very reassuring one and, and one you felt, you felt good about. And, the thing I--the stand-out in that, I had, I had this--a Monday afternoon, I had just done some working out and came back to the office and they said, "You need to go up to see the Chief of Staff" so I went up to see the Chief of Staff and he said, "Hey Ron, you know we have that task force over in Albania; you're gonna go join it. You're gonna go this week and I don't know how long you're gonna be there." So I, so I go home and my wife says, "How was your day?" and I said, "Well"--or I said, "How was your day?" And she said "Good." She said "How was yours?" And I said "Well, let's go get some ice cream." Well, that was key word. If you, you know, if you said ice cream then, then you're going somewhere. So she just looks at me and then--so we go out and get ice cream and she said, "Where're you going?" and I said, "Well, I'm going to Germany and then down to Albania." "How long you gonna be gone?" I said, "I don't have a, I don't have a clue." So then we go home and tell the kids and the--but the thing that's so good about it is that my youngest is now in third grade and so I tell her I'm gonna go away and you know she's crying why and the whole bit. So I tell her, so the next day--and I tell her we're going to help the poor people--they can't, they can't you know, they need help. So the next day I'm leaving and she comes up and she gives me a ten-dollar bill and she says "Give this to the poor people to help them.--$$Emm.$$--Can you imagine that? I mean that's, that's, that's big; that's big.

Lt. Col. Joseph Carpenter

U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Joseph H. Carpenter was born on June 19, 1924 in Washington, D.C. Carpenter graduated from Cardozo High School in June of 1942. He briefly attended George Washington University from 1964 to 1966 where he studied liberal arts before earning a commission with the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant.

In May of 1943, Carpenter enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps along with thousands of African Americans and completed basic training at the segregated boot camp at Montford Point Camp near Jacksonville, North Carolina. He was promoted to chief clerk in 1945 and became the first African American to be assigned duty at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Carpenter separated from the military in 1949 and worked as a civil servant in various government positions. In 1966, after briefly attending George Washington University, he re-entered the military and was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. Carpenter was assigned as an officer with the 4th Civil Affairs Group and deployed during peacekeeping operations to Norway, Panama, and Puerto Rico, and Vietnam. Continuing to serve in data processing and other staff and clerical positions throughout his career, Carpenter rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring in 1986. In 1965, Carpenter was founding member of the Montford Point Marines Association, which was established to reunite veterans and active-duty Marines Corps personnel that trained at Montford Point Camp between 1942 and 1949. He is also a founding member of the Montford Point Marines Museum, which is housed at Montford Point Camp (now Camp Johnson).

In 2012, President Barack Obama bestowed upon Carpenter the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for service as a Montford Point Marine. He was honored during a special ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C with state officials, military personnel, and other African Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949. Carpenter has also been recognized by the Montford Point Marines Association for his efforts to preserve and share the legacy of the Montford Point Marines as pioneers in the United States Marine Corps.

U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Carpenter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 15, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.041

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/13/2013

Last Name

Carpenter

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

CAR26

Favorite Season

Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

6/19/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Stafford

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ribs

Short Description

Colonel Lt. Col. Joseph Carpenter (1924 - ) , founding member of Montford Point Marines Association and the Montford Point Marines Museum, received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.

Employment

United States Marine Corps

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:6206,146:7214,169:9230,239:21220,482:21620,490:34476,803:46118,920:47524,962:53814,1096:57958,1177:74542,1400:80406,1523:88728,1723:103146,2076:121346,2511:132710,2731:139080,2927:150525,3080:151375,3102:164786,3348:166762,3411:169194,3468:191070,3927:205290,4174:217100,4413:224100,4553$0,0:1254,92:19193,398:28806,504:30990,545:41956,867:72460,1307:75982,1399:115076,2085:119000,2157:130031,2382:143720,2694:148266,2773:148514,2778:163086,3008:165822,3086:171222,3168:191008,3575:206010,3832:220490,4262:241644,4580:244892,4722:246740,4760:270412,5188:275240,5302:276260,5321:278368,5368:288419,5544:289089,5565:298260,5738
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joseph Carpenter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joseph Carpenter lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joseph Carpenter describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joseph Carpenter describes his mother's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his maternal grandmother and the Catholic church his maternal grandparents attended in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joseph Carpenter describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joseph Carpenter describes how his parents met and talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joseph Carpenter describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joseph Carpenter describes the neighborhood he lived in and schools he attended

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his oldest sister who was a principal in the Washington, D.C. public schools

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Joseph Carpenter remembers his elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his family and their skin colors and learning to type

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joseph Carpenter describes his experience in junior high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joseph Carpenter discusses his experience in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his joining the U.S. Marine Corps pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his joining the U.S. Marine Corps pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joseph Carpenter discusses his travels through the "Jim Crow" South to Montford Point, North Carolina pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joseph Carpenter discusses his travels through the "Jim Crow" South to Montford Point, North Carolina pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joseph Carpenter describes his arrival to Montford Point in North Carolina for U.S. Marine Corps boot camp training

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joseph Carpenter describes his U.S. Marine Corps boot camp training pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joseph Carpenter describes his U.S. Marine Corps boot camp training pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his graduation from boot camp and his assignment to the battalion company office

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joseph Carpenter describes his U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joseph Carpenter talks about the limited interactions between white and black Marines

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joseph Carpenter explains the U.S. Marine Corps' Ribbon River Creek incident

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joseph Carpenter talks about the Tuskegee Airmen and working as an office clerk with the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joseph Carpenter talks about muster rolls in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joseph Carpenter talks about remaining at Montford Point, while his platoon fought overseas in World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joseph Carpenter talks about being transferred to U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joseph Carpenter describes his work as a data processor and project officer for the U.S. Marine Corps pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joseph Carpenter describes his work as a data processor and project officer for the U.S. Marine Corps pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joseph Carpenter talks about being denied accommodations by a Texas hotel

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joseph Carpenter discusses his re-entry into the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joseph Carpenter recalls important historical events from the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joseph Carpenter talks about his civil affairs work in Panama

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joseph Carpenter describes his experiences with the local people in Panama

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joseph Carpenter recalls the highlights of his service in the U.S. Marine Corps pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joseph Carpenter recalls the highlights of his service in the U.S. Marine Corps pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joseph Carpenter discusses his retirement

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joseph Carpenter reflects on the changes in the U.S. Marine Corps during his service

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Joseph Carpenter recalls how racial prejudice affected his military leave

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joseph Carpenter discusses his post retirement plans and activities

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joseph Carpenter talks about the Montford Point Marines receiving the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2012

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joseph Carpenter reflects upon his legacy and the legacy of the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joseph Carpenter expresses regret for not pursuing a college degree

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joseph Carpenter describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community and talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joseph Carpenter talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joseph Carpenter describes his photos pt.1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joseph Carpenter describes his photos pt.2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

7$9

DATitle
Joseph Carpenter discusses his travels through the "Jim Crow" South to Montford Point, North Carolina pt.1
Joseph Carpenter recalls how racial prejudice affected his military leave
Transcript
So you hadn't, you didn't have a sense of how black soldiers were treated in the Army?$$Well, I knew how they'd been treated, but, you know, from radio, you hear on the radio or when you went to the movies, they had News Reels. You'd see that and what you read in the paper, but, you know, you don't feel it. You don't, you know of it, but you don't really appreciate, I should--I guess I should put it that way. You don't appreciate what happened. So anyway, we get going, and after a couple of hours, we decide we wanted to eat. So we caught the conductor--it was a local train. So it stopped at every station going South. So the conductor comes through after every stop. So when he came through this time, we said, where's the dining car? And he says, well, you boys can't--I don't think he said, you boys. You guys or--probably, you boys, I guess, he said, "You boys--he made have said it a black way. He said "You boys can't go there because--he said, you boys can't go there." And so we immediately we said, why? He says, well, you're in the South, and there's a Jim Crowe law that doesn't allow blacks or colored to eat with the whites. So we didn't argue with him. So we said, okay, 'cause we could get off at Rocky Mountain. So we asked him how close Rocky Mountain was, and he said, maybe an hour or two from where we were. So we said, okay, we got--we talked together and said, okay, we'll just eat when we get in Rocky Mountain. And, of course, none of us had ever been to Rocky Mountain. So because of the way we were situated in the coaches, when the train pulled into the station for Rocky Mountain, it goes way--the engine goes way down the track. And I said, we're going down the track with it. So when we got out, when we got out, then everybody behind us is getting out at the same time, so it's all whites from the next car right behind us all the way back to the last car. So immediately we, and we waited on the tracks, and we're walking back towards the station 'cause we're right--now, this puts us in the back of the white group that's going in. And so we were talking, you know, we're still not paying any attention. None of us really had lived in the South or were really familiar with the South. So we were just walking with the group, going to the station 'cause we needed to find out where to get the bus 'cause nobody knew anything about Rocky Mountain. And, of course, you wanna get something to eat. So they all go in the station--in the, most of 'em started going into the station, and we were following right along, talking, not paying attention to signs or anything else. So this cop steps up in front of us, and he was a big one too. And he had a big pistol, about that thing was almost as tall as, almost as long as I was tall (laughter). That's the way it looked. But anyway, he says, where in the hell you--and he used the "N" word, think you're going? I said, well, we're going in here 'cause we wanna get something to eat, and we got meal tickets, we got a meal ticket we're bringing. I said, we got meal tickets, got our meal tickets, and we got to find out where to catch our bus, this type of thing. He said, well, can't you guys read? And he used the "N" word again. And, you know, well, we weren't gonna argue with him 'cause he was a police (laughter). And so he said, can't you guys read? So I looked up there, and I saw it said, "white". And I hadn't looked up there before, and then he says, well, you have to go around the corner. And I went around the corner, and I saw a sign up there, says, "Colored". And so we went in there. Like I say, we're in Rocky Mountain, and I don't know the first place about Rocky Mountain, neither did any of us. So we were completely lost without some information from somebody. So anyway, we went in the side door there, and it was a long corridor, fairly long, and at the end of it was a sliding glass window. So we go up to the window and look in, and we could see the white waitress in there, white people sitting around the counter, just talking and they were serving them. So we stood there a few minutes, thinking that somebody's gonna recognize and come over and see what we wanted. They completely ignored us. So then I said, well, you know, we had a problem 'cause I had to--I don't know where to go after here. So I knocked on glass. And we decided, we were talking, since we saw them ignoring us, said, well, we're not gonna eat here, said, we don't wanna eat here if that's the way they're gonna treat us.$And that's why the police and all of 'em--that reminds me of another thing. But that's why police and all of 'em would give us a hard time because they knew we had no one, we had no one looking out for us. We were on, kind of on our own. And the (unclear) way up, after I got in the head--when I went in the recruit company, as, right out of boot camp, went into recruit company, and I told you that the First Sergeant asked me to wait a while before I took my leave, well, about a month later when I took my leave, I left the office at 4:30 that evening, and went into Jacksonville [North Carolina] to catch the bus to go to Rocky Mountain to catch the train there to go to [Washington] D.C. That's the only way I knew to travel 'cause that's the first time off the base. So anyway, I go into Jacksonville at around 4:30, right after work Friday, and about the time I got out of Jacksonville, it was midnight because of the white Marines from Camp LeJeune [North Carolina] were inside and there were a thousand of them. And the Jim Crow law says whites fill up first, and if it's any room afterwards, blacks could go. So it was from 4:30 and a bus would leave, left around 6:00, another left around 8:00, and another left around midnight, and I got the--the one I got was midnight when I got out of there. So, when I get to Rocky Mountain, now, it's about--well, about time the train comes through, it's about 2:00 o'clock in the morning. So I get on the train to go to D.C. I get to D.C., and it's about 8:00 o'clock Saturday morning or 9:00 o'clock, somewhere in there. It's morning. I walk through the gate from, coming out of the train, where the train area is, where the train's there. You go through the gate, and then you're in the station. And it's a wide area there. And who's standing right there at the gate, is an MP [military police]. And he looks at me, and he calls me over. And he says, Marine, you're out of uniform. I said, what are you talking about I'm out of uniform. He says that uniform you're in is filthy. I said, well, I just got off the train. And he says, I'm sorry, but you're--you can't go into town like that. I said, well, okay. Well, I got a, a change of uniform in my bag. I got a bag right. I can go in the men's room and change up. He said, nah, I'm not gonna let you do that. You can't do that. So he held me over at their, at the station until the next train going South, put me on the next train going South to go back to camp. And I did 'cause I had no choice really. Then he's the police to me. He's the police. And if he said, do it, you do it. He says, and plus, I'm gonna send a letter back to your command reporting this. So I said, well, I--so to me, I said, well, I'd better go back and make sure that I square everything away. So anyway, he puts me on the train and I come back. So I get back, maybe late Saturday evening or early Sunday morning. I don't remember which. Anyway, it was the next, that Monday when we go to work, I go in the office and the first thing Tops, the First Sergeant, and we called Top, First Sergeant, First Sergeant Top, so the First Sergeant said, well, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be on leave. So I explained to him what happened. So he said, okay, he said, what he would do, he was gonna notify the battalion, our battalion CO [commanding officer] who in turn could notify Colonel Woods who was the camp CO to notify the CO of the MP's down here, and explain to 'em what's happening so that, you know, we can't, we've got--we have to ride that train, and nothing we could do because the coach we're in is the one that's filthy 'cause that's the one right behind the coal car basically, you know, and then when the blacks caught it in the South, you know, they bring chicken and everything else. That's where everybody has to ride if you ride a train. So they bring live chickens and everything on the train down in the South at that time, they would. And so it was filthy, and the soot from the dust--you could feel grit. It just, the seat felt gritty, but you couldn't, that's the only you could do is sit on it, if you sat down. And I didn't know any better 'cause I mean I sat there. I didn't realize I was gonna get that dirty, but my suit, my uniform really was dirty 'cause I was perspiring. So you perspire, and you're rubbing against it, and so anyway so my First Sergeant says, I'll give you another set of leaves. And this time when you, just catch the bus and go to D.C. to avoid that until we can get it squared away. So I said, okay, I'll catch the bus. So he did give me a break. He started off with two weeks leave. So he gave me two weeks, plus a--what they call a 72-hour pass, which is another three days he had, he tacked onto it for me. So anyway, I catch the bus, and now in the Jim Crow laws there, when the bus stops at one of those restaurants, you can't go in and eat. You gotta go around the back, see, and then knock on the door and then the cooks or what not would come to the door, and serve you whatever you want. But then if you wanted to go to the restroom, they had an outhouse for you, for blacks. And that thing was never clean. And so you could imagine what it was like to step in something that's been there for years and used for years. So I said to myself, boy, this is not, this is just not it. So anyway, I get back on the bus, and decide I wouldn't get off until I got to D.C. And I did, I went all the way to D.C. Of course, I had to come back that way, but coming back, I made sure I didn't have to stop for nothing (laughter). I just had to ride the bus. I was gonna stay on the bus the whole trip, which I did 'cause it was terrible.

Lt. Gen. Willie Williams

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Willie Williams was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps in May of 1974 after graduating with his B.A. degree in business administration from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Williams also received his M.A. degree in business administration from National University in San Diego, California in 1992 and his M.A. degree in strategic resources management from from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1994. He is also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Amphibious Warfare School.

Williams began his career with the 11th Marine Artillery Regiment, serving first as a battalion supply officer and then as the regimental supply officer. In October 1977, Williams was assigned to the 3rd Force Service Support Group based in Iwakuni, Japan. After serving in Iwakuni, Williams returned to the U.S. for duty at the Marine Barracks at North Island, San Diego, California. While there, Williams served as the detachment supply officer and barracks executive officer. In June 1982, he reported to Quantico, Virginia for duty as platoon commander in the Officer Candidate School. In 1988, Williams deployed as the logistics officer with the Contingency Marine Air Ground Task Force 3-88 during its Persian Gulf Deployment. He was assigned to joint duty with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office in January 1990. Williams was appointed as commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group from 1994 to 1996. In June 1997, Williams departed for duty in Okinawa, Japan with the 1st Force Service Support Group. Initially, Williams was assigned as the assistant chief of staff; but, in 1998, he was promoted to commanding officer of the Brigade Service Support Group. He returned to Okinawa, Japan in 2000 as the commanding general of the Marine Corps Base at Camp Smedley D. Butler, and then as as the commanding general of the 3rd Force Service Support Group. From 2003 to 2005, Williams served as the assistant deputy commandant of Installations and Logistics at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters. In 2011, Williams became the director of the Marine Corps staff at Marine Corps Headquarters, making him third in the chain of command for the entire Marine Corps, behind only the commandant and the assistant commandant.

Williams military honors include the Legion of Merit with a gold star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Department of Defense Service Badge. Williams received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Stillman College, and an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from Albany State University.

Lt. Gen.Willie Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 11, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.042

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/11/2013

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

J.

Occupation
Schools

Moundville Public High School

Stillman College

National University

Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Willie

Birth City, State, Country

Livingston

HM ID

WIL61

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Orange
Beach, Alabama

Favorite Quote

We should not allow others to dictate our destiny.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

9/27/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Huntsville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Lieutenant general Lt. Gen. Willie Williams (1951 - ) was the first African American to be appointed as the director of the U.S. Marine Corps staff at Marine Corps headquarters.

Employment

United States Marine Corps

Favorite Color

Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie Williams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie Williams describes his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about his maternal uncle, Henry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about slavery and land ownership on his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his mother's life in Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie Williams describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his family's livelihood from owning land

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about his father's education, and life in Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about his parents' relationship as well as his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about his biological parents and his mother raising five children by herself

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about the origin of his last name, "Williams"

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about his mother moving him and his siblings to different places in Alabama, to stay close to their relatives

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about his likeness to his parents, and his mother's influence on him

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his family's involvement in the First Baptist Church of Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks about starting school in Epes, Alabama, and his teachers at school in Epes and Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his experience in elementary school in Epes and Theodore, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willie Williams discusses baseball players who originated from Mobile County, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about growing up without a television, electricity and running water

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willie Williams talks about the nurturing community of Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie Williams describes the work he did while growing up in rural Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about his family's life in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about his favorite pastimes while growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie Williams describes his experience in school in Moundville, Alabama, where his teachers encouraged to go college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about his brother, Willis William's career, and being the first of his siblings to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie Williams discusses the influence of his school principal and teachers in his decision to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie Williams recalls the civil right activities of the 1960s in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie Williams talks about segregation in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willie Williams describes his experience at Stillman College

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Willie Williams describes his work at Olympia Mills, a textile manufacturing company, and how he met his future wife

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Willie Williams talks about enrolling in the U.S. Marines' Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program at Stillman College

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Willie Williams talks about being honored by the University of Alabama, and the U.S. Army ROTC program at Stillman College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about the people who supported him at Stillman College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about the U.S. Marine Corps, and his experience in the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie Williams describes his decision to join the U.S. Marines

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1974, and his assignment to the Vietnamese refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, California

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about his decision to stay in the U.S. Marines and the people who influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his assignment to Iwakuni, Japan with the U.S. Marines in the late 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie Williams describes the role and structure of the U.S. Marines

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his experience being stationed in Japan with the 3rd Force Service Support Group of the U.S. Marines

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willie Williams describes his service at Marine Barracks, North Island in San Diego, from 1978 to 1982

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about his role as Platoon Commander at Officer Candidate School and being selected to the Amphibious Warfare School

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about mountain warfare training, and his assignment as assistant division supply officer at the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about his involvement in Operation Earnest Will in the Persian Gulf

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about attending the Armed Forces Staff College in the late 1980s and early 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his service with the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks about the Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Willie Williams talks about his assignment as commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about experiencing racism in the U.S. Marine Corps, and the close-knit environment of the Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about the role of Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) and his service with the 31st MEU in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about visiting China with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Russia with the Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Willie Williams describes his assignment as Commanding Officer of Brigade Service Support Group

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about the reception of his team in Kenya

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Willie Williams discusses Black Hawn Down in Mogadishu, Somalia and the United Stated Africa Command (AFRICOM)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Willie Williams discusses his assignment as the commanding general of the 3rd Force Service Support Group from 2001 to 2003

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Willie Williams recalls the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks upon the U.S. Marines' efforts in the Pacific in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Willie Williams reflects upon the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about the chain of command in the U.S. armed forces

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about his assignment as Commander of Marine Corps Logistics Command in Albany, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Willie Williams describes his position as Director of Marine Corps Staff

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about the social issues in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about the programs in the U.S. Marine Corps that help Marines achieve a balance in life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about serving as a component commander at President Barack Obama's inauguration parade

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks about the legacy of the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Willie Williams talks about the work of the Montford Point Marine Association in honoring the Montford Point Marines, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about the work of the Montford Point Marine Association in honoring the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about Sergeant Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about Sergeant Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about blacks and the U.S. Marines

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Willie Williams reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about his life and his wife and daughter

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his retirement plans

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Willie Williams describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Willie Williams describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Willie Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Moundville, Alabama
Willie Williams describes his decision to join the U.S. Marines
Transcript
You grew up in a lot of different places [in Alabama], but what were some of the sights and sounds and smells of growing up?$$Well, I think--I go back to Moundville [Alabama]. I go back to Moundville. I remember, because that's where I spent most of my childhood. Because when we arrived there, I was in the sixth grade. And I stayed there all the way through the rest--through high school, which is the longest that we'd ever lived in any one place. And I tell you, the thing there that was always just kind of a fun time for us, was sandlot baseball. I mean, that was always big there. Every little town had their baseball team. And you know, and they was--as we all say, out in the cow pastures. It was really where most of the diamonds were. I mean, there was no ballpark. And literally, I think, just about every one--except for ours in Moundville--because we had that park there where the Indian mounds and stuff was. That was kind of a little park there that we had, had diamonds there. But that was--$$Now, that wasn't segregated or anything?$$Oh, it was segregated. We had our own little, we had our own area there, and we just played there. And then we--then there was a number of little towns in and around Moundville--a little place called Havana, or Tusi (ph) Town, or little places like that. They would also have ball teams. And so, we would travel to those little towns. They would come there and, you know--. So, we used to, those were the fun times. So, I always remember that as some of the good parts of growing up, some of the fun times of growing up, you know. You got--and then also in that same area was our Sunrise Service that we would have on the mountains. Now that was, that was put on, that was not segregated. It was put on by the local church. It was a white church that put it on. But we would often go to it. So, our thing was to--you would stay up all night, especially once we got to be a teenager. So, you stay up all night. Saturday night--if you were out partying or at the juke joints as we called them--. And then we would go over to the park, you know, with blankets and everything else, that early morning while they did the Sunrise Service which was, I thought it was always very well done. I mean, just the way--with the lighting and everything, with the tomb, you know, and the rolling of the stone away. And then the cross up on one of the high mountains, you know, and all that, how they acted that out. So that was, that was always--and that was a big thing within our community. We lived there because we were, you know, across the tracks there. But we could, and we could just--you could go there and just watch. You didn't necessarily participate, but you could go there and watch it, and watch that. And that was always a fun time.$$Okay. Any other sights, sounds or smells?$$Well, the--because you know, you always got the--you smell the, the little restaurants that you had there, you know, with the fried fish and, you know, and the grease smells that you got. And the other--but probably one of the--so, that was always there. But the other thing, that from where I grew up, is--and I think you'll see a picture in there of--. It was three of us who basically grew up together, from the time I got to Moundsville, three close friends. I mean, we became really like brothers. And we, and two of us still are. One has died. But two of us, we still are. And so, we always had some sort of old car that we, that we would fix. We would, I mean we would do all the repairs ourselves, I mean, to include--. You know, if we had to take an engine out without even having the tools--or taking the transmission out. We could out in the back of where we was living and under the shade tree. I guess that's why we call it the shade tree mechanics. And we would, and we would do our own repairs and all that. And so there was always this, these old cars that was down there. But there was, but there was--so it was always this, you know, these old cars around that would, that we would be fixing on and riding in, and so forth. And so, it was always a lot of fun times with those guys doing that.$$Okay.$And so I came back [from Platoon Leaders Class program in the U.S. Marine Corps, at Quantico, Virginia; summer training], and I think by then, I had the bug. So, I kind of began to think that this was the way that I, that I wanted to go. But I still didn't make up my mind until later on, really, because I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to do it (unclear).$$What finally made up your mind up for you on the--$$The, I think what really sealed it for me [to join the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1974]--and it goes back to having this job and working for this company. And I had worked for this company for basically three and a half years of my four year college career. And so, I had a good work record and all that sort of stuff, and was doing well. So, and then I'm, you know--so fast forward, and it's time to come out of college. You know, I got a business degree. You know, I'm getting--will have a business degree, minor in accounting, graduating with honors, you know, and what I considered to have set myself up pretty good to go into the business, go into business, enter the business field. And so, I go and I got an appointment with the personnel office there at the company that I was, that I had been working for for this time, and asking them about, you know, maybe an internship or something within the accounting department, or some sort of thing within the business development or something, to be able to do that. And at the time, they said well, that they really didn't have anything, anything for me, and that the only thing they could offer me would be a supervisor job on the floor, just on the plant floor, you know. And so, well, when I looked around at the other supervisors, you know, I--first, I didn't see, I didn't see college graduates there, you know. And then the ones that, who were supervisors, were mostly white, you know. Okay, they may have had a high school--but they probably--most of them had a high school, I think. And some may have had a little bit of a year or so in some other kind. So, to me that didn't seem quite right, you know, that--. And so, so I'm talking now--so I'm talking now to the office selection officer, and we're talking about that. You know, we're talking about whether I'm going to make this decision or not. And his words at the time was that, "Well yeah, we understand that, but that's not the way of the Marine Corps. We're a meritocracy, so you, I mean your position, your promotions and all is based on merit and is based upon your performance, not necessarily based on the color of your skin or anything." And so at that time they said, "So, really, as to how far you go in the Marine Corps really is left up to you, and how you apply yourself, how you perform." Which, again, goes back to what my mother [Ella Mae Bolden Hill] told me, you know, that I can do, you know, whatever it is that you set your--I mean, you can do that. And so, I said "Well, okay." So, and so, you know, the wife and I, we talked about it and we decided, well let's just give it a shot.

Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr.

Aerospace engineer and major general (ret.) Charles F. Bolden, Jr. was born on August 19, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina. He graduated from C.A. Johnson High School in 1964. Both of his parents, Charles and Ethel Bolden, were teachers and stressed the importance of education. Bolden received his B.S. degree in electrical science from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968, and earned his M.S. degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. He then accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps following graduation from the Naval Academy and underwent flight training at Pensacola, Florida, Meridian, Mississippi, and Kingsville, Texas.

Between June 1972 and June 1973, Bolden flew more than 100 combat missions into North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the A-6A Intruder while stationed in Nam Phong, Thailand. After returning to the United States, Bolden served in a variety of positions in the Marine Corps. He was then assigned to the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, where he completed his training in 1979. While working at the Naval Air Test Center’s Systems Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates, he tested a variety of ground attack aircraft until his selection as an astronaut candidate in 1980. Bolden’s NASA astronautical career included technical assignments. He served as pilot on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. In the wake of the Challenger disaster, he was assigned as the chief of the Safety Division. In 1990, he piloted the Space Shuttle Discovery during its mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. Bolden served as the Mission Commander for Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1992 and the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994. He logged more than 680 hours during these four flights. Bolden left NASA and returned to the U.S. Marine Corps in 1997, and was assigned as the Deputy Commandment of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. During Operation Desert Thunder-Kuwait in 1998, he was assigned as the Commanding General of the Marine Expeditionary Force. He was promoted to Major General in 1998. In 2003, Bolden retired from the Marine Corps and served as president of the American PureTex Water Corporation. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Bolden as the top NASA administrator, making him the second astronaut and the first African American to serve in this position.

Bolden’s military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. NASA awarded him the Exceptional Service Award in 1988, 1989, and 1991. In May of 2006, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Bolden and his wife, Alexis Walker, live in Alexandria, Virginia. They have two children: U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anthony Bolden, and Michelle Bolden, M.D.
Charles Bolden was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 28, 2012 and February 3, 2017/

Accession Number

A2012.229

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/28/2012 |and| 2/3/2017

Last Name

Bolden

Maker Category
Middle Name

F.

Schools

United States Naval Academy

University of Southern California

C. A. Johnson High School

Naval Air Test Center

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Columbia

HM ID

BOL03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Japan

Favorite Quote

Do The Best You Can.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/19/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Aerospace engineer and major general Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. (1946 - ) served in the United States Marine Corps and was a pioneering astronaut with NASA, where he also served as administrator.

Employment

United States Marine Corps

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

American PureTex Water Corporation

TechTrans International Corporation

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden. Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his mother's Episcopal upbringing, and her career path

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. reflects on his similarities to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about Charles Drew

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about his brother and their childhood home

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the neighborhood where he grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the house where he grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. continues to describe the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his earliest encounters with math and science

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his earliest memories of watching sports on television

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. recalls his favorite science program on television

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his experience in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his earliest memories of the civil rights movement

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. recalls his experiences with segregation

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. shares his memories as a high school football player

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes experiencing segregation as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his interest in the U.S. Naval Academy and the Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his high school achievements

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his experience at the U.S. Naval Academy

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the influence of his mentor at the U.S. Naval Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the academic rigors at the U.S. Naval Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the tension following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the influences that shaped his decision to join the Marine Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes serving in the Vietnam War

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the A-6 Intruder attack aircraft and A-6 missions

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. discusses the new rules of war

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his thoughts on being an astronaut

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. recalls 1969, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the time during and after the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. obtains his master's degree at the University of Southern California

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes how he became a test pilot with the Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes Dr. Ronald McNair's role in wanting to be an astronaut

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the first African American astronauts in space

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his acceptance into NASA's Space Program in 1980

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his early days at NASA

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. discusses America's waning interest in space

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his first project at NASA

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes preparing for his first mission into space

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes being aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr.'s interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers seeing Earth for the first time from space

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes how he came to join the NASA space flight program

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. lists the crew aboard the STS-61-C mission

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the various roles aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the reasons for Space Shuttle Columbia's extended flight

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the landing procedures of the Space Shuttle Columbia

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the debriefing process following a space flight

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the causes of the Space Shuttle Challenger's failure

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers the crew lost aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his position as chief of the Safety Division at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers his second space mission to launch the Hubble Space Telescope

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the Hubble Space Telescope

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the different views of space

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes NASA's Shuttle Transportation System

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about his flight aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. recalls the experiments aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about his position as the assistant deputy administrator of NASA Headquarters

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers the members of the Congressional Black Caucus

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers his Russian crew mates aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the Russian space program

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the scientific experiments aboard STS-60

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. recalls an incident aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the influence of the Russian space program upon NASA

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. remembers travelling to Belgium and Russia

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about his return to the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his promotions and various positions within the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about Operation Desert Thunder

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the U.S. military actions leading to the Iraq War

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the Iraq War

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the regime of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the highest ranking African Americans within the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his positions immediately following his retirement

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the creation of Jack and Panther LLC

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. recalls his presidential appointment to NASA administrator

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes the support of NASA within the U.S. government

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the debates concerning global warming

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his goals and objectives as NASA administrator

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the need for diversity within NASA

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. shares his hopes for the future of NASA

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. reflects upon the state of STEM education in the United States

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about the effects of space travel

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. shares his advice for younger generations

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. shares the advice he received from Robert L. Gibson

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

7$10

DATitle
Charles Bolden recalls his experiences with segregation
Charles Bolden describes being aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia
Transcript
Okay. Now do you remember segregation vividly--$$Very well, yeah.$$--in growing up?$$Yeah, that was all I knew.$$Yeah, well, what was it like going into downtown Columbia--$$I've--it was okay 'cause you knew where you, you knew where you could go and where you couldn't. And you knew where you better not go. And, and so you just kind of governed your life that way. It was, in many ways it was a lot easier than when I got to the Naval Academy where, you know, Baltimore and other places were recently integrated to be quite honest, but they weren't. And so even then there was de facto segregation. And you could really get yourself in, in, in a bad way going into some places in and around Annapolis, for example, and not know that you weren't supposed to be in there. You went in there because that's where all the other midshipmen went. But they made it very clear when you came in that, you know, you were not welcome. And that, that lasted all the way--I graduated in 1968. And I remember one of the, the worst experiences I had at the Naval Academy was, was just before my graduation when we were told we couldn't--there were, there were three of us, three, three of my friends got in--Buddy Clark, who turned out to be my best man in my wedding and was from Chicago; Frank Simmons, who was from Birmingham, Bessemer, Alabama; and, and me. And we went into a, a place in, on the outskirts of Annapolis in Maryland and, and we were told that they wouldn't serve us, that, you know, we had to go around the back. And we, we were not inclined to do that so we (chuckle), we, we finally left after some time. But it was not, it was not nice, yeah. So I, I've, I remember segregation very, very, very vividly, yeah.$Alright. Now, okay, as you were ready to fly then this is, this is January you said of '86 [1986]?$$When I flew?$$Yeah.$$It was January--well, we started in December. We were scheduled to fly in December. And we went to the launch pad--I can't remember the date. But we got down to fourteen seconds, no, no, no, yeah, we got down to fourteen seconds and, and the system aborted because it detected a, some problem in the right-hand side rocket booster. And they, they didn't know whether it was real or not. And so it, it was in the hydraulic power unit that, that moves the nozzles around. And so they decided that we would scrub for the day. And as they got into it, they realized they had to get in and actually change out a box. And so that caused us to slip completely through the Christmas holidays and into the new year. So then we came back, I want to say we came back down on the 3rd of January and attempted to launch and didn't. We got down to thirty-one seconds and didn't get off because we had a problem with one of the main engines. Then the next time we went out we got down to thirty-one seconds and this time not only did we, did--well we had problems with a, with a main engine valve and it wouldn't close properly. And when they, when they did the troubleshooting after we got out of the vehicle and it turned out as they were detanking the time before a, a thermal probe had broken off. And it jammed one of the, one of the valves. So, turned out to be a good day not to fly because couple of things could have happened, the, the worse being the back end of the shuttle would have blown off because it would have gotten an uncontrolled shutdown because the valve couldn't close carrying the liquid oxygen, liquid oxygen. And the motor, the engine would have over spun and (indicates explosion)! So, so it was a good thing we didn't fly that day. Then the fourth time we went out, we, we laid out there on our backs for two hours in a thunder storm, in a driving thunderstorm with lightening and stuff going on. And we finally talked our way out of the vehicle. We, we started talking among ourselves and--because we knew the flight surgeon was listening in on the, on the intercom. And so we started talking about being worried about getting hit by lightening, laying out there on the metal, on, on top of four million pounds of propellant. So they finally said, okay, we're gonna scrub for the day, and they came and got us. And, and then the next day we went out, which was the 12th of January--flawless. Everything, I mean, everything went like clockwork. And we launched and then came back. Originally we were only gonna fly four days and then the weather at, at the Kennedy Space Center [on Merritt Island, Florida] just kept getting worse and worse and worse. So, so we got an extra three days tacked on. So we ended up with a seven-day mission, but we landed in the middle of the night out at Edwards Air Force Base [in East Kern, California] because the weather just never improved at, at Kennedy [Space Center]. And so that was the 18th of January and in--$$Now what was the flight like? I mean, what--$$It was awesome. I mean it was, you know, my first time in space. Just getting, just getting yourself adapted to being weightless and moving around and, and, and that kind of stuff. And then we had a lot of work to do. We had a lot of, we had a lot of very small experiments plus we had, we had one satellite, one RCA satellite, communication satellite called SATCOM KU-3, KU-2, that serves today. It's a, it's a KU band satellite that's used to get television imagery down. I think it had--HBO was one of the channels it was gonna be on this particular satellite. And then we did a lot of medical experiments, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And then we had the infrared imaging camera on that, that I got a chance to play with quite a bit with Bob Cenker.$$Okay.$$And then, you know, we landed, like I said, on the 18th of January. And we're in the closing phases of our debrief on--what was to have been the last day of our debrief we were sitting in, in, in a debriefing room at, at the Johnson Space Center when we took a break to go watch Challenger launch. And, and seventy-three in sec-, seventy-three seconds in the flight it just disintegrated. And so life changed after that.