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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

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DATape

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DAStory

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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.

Sgt. Johnny Holmes

United State Army 761st Tank Battalion “Black Panther” Sergeant Johnny Alfred “Bobo” Holmes was born on September 3, 1921 in Alliance, Ohio. Growing up in Alliance and Evanston, Illinois, Holmes attended Freedom Elementary School and Evanston Township High School from 1938 to 1939.

Joining the United States Army in 1939, Holmes experienced intense racism for the first time. After the onset of World War II, Holmes was chosen to become a part of the all black 761st Tank Battalion. Like the Tuskegee Airmen, this unit was intended by American reformers to be a step towards integrating the United States armed forces. Training in Custer, Michigan, Fort Knox Kentucky, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana and finally at Fort Hood, Texas, Holmes learned all the nuances of the M4 tank. Beginning in November of 1944, the 761st Tank Battalion under General Patton’s command engaged the enemy for 183 straight days, spearheading many of Patton’s offensives at the Battle of the Bulge and in six European countries. “Patton’s Panthers” lived up to their motto, “Come Out Fighting” defeating 6,000 enemy soldiers, capturing thirty towns and in 1945 liberating Jewish prisoners from concentration camps at Dachau, Lambach and Buchenwald.

In 1946, Holmes returned to private life, working for the City of Chicago. He retired from the Doehler Corporation, married twice and became involved in real estate.

Holmes passed away on March 22, 2013 at the age of 91.

Johnny Holmes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.161

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/12/2006

Last Name

Holmes

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Evanston Township High School

Freedom Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Johnny

Birth City, State, Country

Alliance

HM ID

HOL07

Favorite Season

July

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/3/1921

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Wyoming

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

3/22/2013

Short Description

Sergeant Sgt. Johnny Holmes (1921 - 2013 ) served in World War II with the all black 761st Tank Battalion of the U.S. Army.

Employment

The Doehler Corporation

City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - The slating of Sergeant Johnny Holmes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls his mother's involvement in bootlegging during Prohibition

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes shares what he knows about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes the sights of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls running errands with his sister in Alliance, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his early interest in becoming a soldier

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls a story from his service in World War II, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls a story from his service in World War II, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls his experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes remembers Evanston Township High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes talks about his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls enlisting in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes talks about his early experiences in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes how the 758th Tank Battalion was formed

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his specialized tank training

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls facing racial discrimination in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls being sent into combat during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes remembers the Battle of Metz

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes remembers arriving at the German concentration camps

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls liberating a German concentration camp, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes recalls liberating a German concentration camp, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes talks about visiting war memorials

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes reflects upon World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his life after World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes explains how his war experience influenced his view of civil rights

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his career after his U.S. military service

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes reflects upon his life and legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes gives advice to youth interested in U.S. military service

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sergeant Johnny Holmes narrates his photographs

DASession

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DATitle
Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his early interest in becoming a soldier
Sergeant Johnny Holmes describes his life after World War II
Transcript
How would you describe yourself as a little kid? What kind of little kid were you? What were you interested in?$$War.$$War? Really? Okay. Did you know any war veterans from World War I [WWI], when you were--$$Um-hm.$$Okay.$$Yeah, you could, you, you, you--these were people that were actually fighting. These were black soldiers that were fighting over in France, and Ger- and, and Germany and what have you. And World War I, good god. But they didn't want--they had nobody to help them along like they do today. Like you all are interested in us, they didn't have that. Because, what you would want to know is, but you know I knew many of--when I was over there I, I, I met many black soldiers that would not come back to this country. They could not only speak the language fluently, they could just, you know, talk just like you and I.$$Spoke fluent French?$$French, German, they, they were well versed in those. And it was just a, a, a pain in the butt. I, I, I just could not understand it. How is it that this country could ask me to sacrifice my buddies, my, myself. To sacrifice ourselves, to, to, to do the things that we did, the killing. 'Cause, you know, one of the things that I can very well remember [from World War II, WWII], the first day in combat, it was nothing. I remember Simmons was my driver, and Simmons, he says, "What do we do with this prisoner, Sergeant Holmes [HistoryMaker Sergeant Johnny Holmes]?" I said, "We'll kill the son of a bitch, that's what we're gonna do with--we, we're going to blow his fucking brains out, that's all." And what did Simmons say? "Don't do that, Sergeant Holmes." He said, "That's murder." I said, "You gotta be kidding."$$Now, this is in--$$This was over there in France.$$In France. This was a German prisoner?$$It's a German prisoner.$$Were those your orders to kill them?$$Kill 'em. And, and, and then when he reached back and took my driver's, took my, you see, when you, you--the tank commander is in complete control of everything.$What happened at the end of the, of the war [World War II, WWII]? I mean, did you come back immediately? Or did you--I mean, when, when did you come back to the United States?$$I came back in 1945.$$Now, did, did you receive any citations or anything over there? Okay. Did the unit [761st Tank Battalion] receive any, or?$$But what they did though, rather than give us a president unit citation [Presidential Unit Citation], they gave it to us thirty, thirty some years later.$$Okay.$$Actually, rather than give us credit, for the number of POs [prisoners of war] and et cetera, they gave it to us thirty-seven [sic. thirty-three] years later.$$Okay. So what exactly did you get thirty-seven years later? What did they, what was the name of your--$$Presidential Unit Citation.$$Okay. All right. Who was president then?$$Carter [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.].$$Carter. All right.$$Um-hm.$$All right. Now, what did you do after the war? How did you--were you able to adjust well to civilian life when you came back?$$Yeah, pretty much so.