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Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr.

A long time military officer, Major General Arthur Holmes, Jr. served almost four decades in the United States Army, retiring as a Commanding General. A highly distinguished officer, he won several awards and decorations such as the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Holmes began his military career as a member of a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in college. In June 1952, upon graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Filling a variety of roles, Holmes served twice as a Maintenance Battalion Commander, the second in Vietnam; a member of the Guidance and Procedures Branch of the Logistics Directorate for the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Chief of Ordnance Branch of the Officer Personnel Direc¬torate at the U.S Army Military Personnel Center before becoming Command¬er of the Division Support Command for the First Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Riley, Kansas; and subsequently served as Assistant Division Commander-Support for the same unit, the first Combat Service Support officer to fill the position. Holmes - then made history - becoming the first combat service support officer to serve as Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Army from 1977 until 1979. Holmes’ final post - before retiring in 1987 - was that of Commanding General, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command, where he oversaw the delivery of 30,000 tactical vehicles to the field with the highest level of user satisfaction yet achieved. On behalf of his service to the U.S. Army, in 1991, Holmes became am Inductee in the 1999 Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame.

Arthur Holmes, Jr. was born on May 12, 1931 in Decatur, Alabama. He earned his B.S. degree in chemistry from the Hampton Institute – now called Hampton University, and his M.B.A degree from Kent State (Ohio) University. Holmes is also a graduate of the Naval War College. Moving on from the military, he became highly involved in business and governmental life serving for eight years as Vice-President of Logistics Applications and then President and CEO of the Automated Sciences Group, Inc. - a high-tech corporation with 300 computer scientists and engineers and average annual revenue of $28 million. Holmes also served a seven year stint with the Montgomery County Planning Board, serving as a commissioner, and then vice-chair and chairman. Between 2002 and 2004, he served as Director of Go Montgomery! – a Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) agency devoted to implementing the County’s Master Plan in all transportation regions. He took over the helm of DPWT, in October 2004.

Holmes is involved with many boards and organizations including Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He and his wife, Wilma, have four children and six grandchildren, and they reside in Olney, Maryland.

Holmes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 29, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.100

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/29/2008

Last Name

Holmes

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Maynard Elementary School

Beardsly Junior High School

Austin-East Magnet High School

Hampton University

U.S. Naval War College

Kent State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

Decatur

HM ID

HOL12

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Diego, California

Favorite Quote

We Can Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/12/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Major general Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. (1931 - ) retired from the military as Commanding General, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command, where he oversaw the delivery of 30,000 tactical vehicles to the field with the highest level of user satisfaction yet achieved. He also served as Director of Go Montgomery!, a Department of Public Works and Transportation in Alabama.

Employment

United States Army

Automated Science Group

Montgomery County Planning Board

Montgomery County Department of Transportation

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his family's frequent moves

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes remembers his childhood activities and best friend

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his early educational experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls the African American athletes of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his high school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls playing basketball at Austin High School in Knoxville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers the home front of World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls the heroism of Doris Miller

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his aspirations during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about the desegregation of the U.S. military

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his first impression of the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers his professors and classmates at the Hampton Institute

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his ROTC training at the Hampton Institute

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers his deployment to Germany

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his U.S. military experiences in Germany

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his return to the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes the duties of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about equipment maintenance in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about the U.S. Army's weapons regulations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his career in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his deployment to Vietnam

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers the United States Naval War College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about the promotion process in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls the early African American generals in the U.S. military

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about personnel management in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls meeting General Colin L. Powell

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his appointment as the executive officer to secretary of the army

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his duties under the secretary of the army

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers Clifford L. Alexander, Jr. and President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers fragging incidents during the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his leadership style in Vietnam

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about the prevalence of drugs in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers meeting foreign dignitaries

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his promotion to brigadier general

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his responsibilities as a brigadier general

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about his graduate and professional training

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his responsibilities as a brigadier general

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his retirement from the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers joining the Montgomery Country Planning Board

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about his directorship of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. remembers his transition to civilian life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about his work at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes remembers his childhood activities and best friend
Maj. Gen. Arthur Holmes, Jr. recalls his appointment as the executive officer to secretary of the army
Transcript
Can you tell us about some of the places you lived and what were some of the sights and sounds and smells of growing up?$$Well, in, in Decatur [Alabama], it was, it was right in the neighborhood and there wasn't much to do except, you know, you played marbles, you tried to play baseball in some of the yards. There wasn't a lot of recreation facilities for blacks in Decatur at that particular time. When we moved up in the Chattanooga [Tennessee] area, we were actually in a little town called Soddy, Tennessee [Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee] and there were twenty-one black families there and I can remember roaming the fields there and I remember we found some Indian cigars, so to speak, and we, you had to take those and, and (unclear) tobacco and you have to dry them out and I forgot to take them out of the oven (laughter) and my mom [Grace Bradley Holmes] found, found those things but I remember those, those were good days. We, we played cowboys and Indians [Native American] and that's when you had the guns with caps in 'em and it was a, I had a good childhood. I don't have bad memories of a childhood and I had a loving--a loving family.$$Okay, now what about Knoxville [Tennessee]? Now--$$In, in Knoxville, I went to, to the grammar school there for the second semester and I met my best friend, an individual, Edward Hill, who I talk with right now, once or twice a week. We're like brothers. There's nothing that Ed wouldn't do for me, I wouldn't do for him.$$Okay.$$And, and they called us Mutt and Jeff. I don't know whether you remember the cartoon, Mutt and Jeff. Mutt, Mutt was a very tall guy and Jeff was a very short guy so if you go to Knoxville, Tennessee, if you see Ed Hill, they'll, they'll know Art Holmes [HistoryMaker Major General Arthur Holmes, Jr.], they'll ask you about him because we just, we were very, very close.$$So was he very short?$$Yeah, he was very short. He didn't grow until he went to college and he, I think he's about 5', 5'9" now.$$Okay, and you're about 6'3" right?$$I'm 6'3".$$Okay, all right. So, Mutt and Jeff, yeah--$$Mutt and Jeff (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) it was a popular comic strip in all the papers in those days.$$That's right, yeah.$$Yeah.$Now what else about, when you were head of Ordnance for the (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, I was head of the, of the Ordnance Corps [U.S. Army Ordnance Corps] for approximately eighteen months and after that I went to Fort Riley [Kansas] and I commanded the division support command in the 1st Infantry Division and I did that for eighteen months.$$Now about what year is this?$$Say again?$$What year is this?$$This would have been '75 [1975], '76 [1976] until early '77 [1977].$$Okay.$$And in early '77 [1977], I became the assistant division commander for the 1st Infantry Division. There were two assistant division commanders and I was one of those and I did that for approximately three months and then I was selected by the secretary of the army to be the executive officer to the secretary of the army, and that's the highest military officer in the secretary of the army's officer--office.$$Okay.$$And I was the first black to be an executive to the secretary of the army who was a black at that particular time, Clifford Alexander [Clifford L. Alexander, Jr.].$$Okay, all right, all right. Now this is in '76 [1976]?$$Seventy-five [1975], '76 [1976], '77 [1977], I was his executive officer for two years.$$Yeah, now Clifford Alexander was appointed by Jimmy Carter [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.]?$$By Jimmy Carter.$$All right, okay, all right. Now, were you surprised when you were selected or did you--$$Oh, very much so. I was out at Fort Riley as the assistant division commander, I was waiting to go to another command to command a depot in Red River, Red River Depot [Red River Army Depot] in Texarkana, Texas and I'd been out in the field with checking troops and training and I came back and the commanding general secretary said, "They, secretary of the army's office would like for you to call him," and I said, "Fine." I said, who's the secretary of the army because at that particular time, there was a transition and I didn't know who had been. So they said, come up and they wanted to interview me and I said I'll never get that particular job, first being a tactical service officer as opposed to a combat arm's officer and my daughters [Deborah Holmes Cook and Sharon Holmes Key] were back here so I said, I'll get a free trip back here to see my daughters and my interview with the secretary of the army lasted approximately ten minutes and I walked out of there saying, well, you know, that was a, that was a good time, I got to see my daughters, and I went to the airport at Dulles [Washington Dulles International Airport, Dulles, Virginia], getting ready to go back to Kansas and I got a call that said, "Colonel Holmes [HistoryMaker Major General Arthur Holmes, Jr.], would you pick up one of the courtesy phones," and I picked it up and the guy who was the acting executive said, "The secretary of the army wants to talk with you," and so I was hang--holding on and he came back on and said, he had to go up and see the secretary of defense so he will call you tomorrow. So I said to him, "Hey, you can't keep me hanging like this. What is it?" And he said, you know, "I can't tell you that." He said, "The secretary of the army has to tell you his decision," but he said, "I don't think you'll be disappointed," and when I got back to Fort Riley, the next day, I got a call that said the secretary of the army wanted me to come to the Pentagon [Washington, D.C.] and be his executive officer.$$Well, okay then, that doesn't get too much better than this.$$It does not.$$Okay, so (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I--that was one of the happiest moments in my life--$$Okay.$$--my military life, I should say.