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Capt. Avis T. Bailey

Nonprofit chief executive, captain and ship pilot Avis T. Bailey was born on May 19, 1949, in Washington, D.C. to Roosevelt and Dorothy Bailey. He was raised by his mother after his parents separated when he was four years old. The youngest of eight children, Bailey was a precocious child, who learned American history through self-guided tours of Washington, D.C.’s monuments and museums. As a student at Banneker Junior High School in Washington, D.C., Bailey was selected from a citywide pool to participate in the First Scholastic Honors Program. His participation in the program continued until his graduation from Cardozo Senior High School in 1967.

Bailey was one of seven students selected from 450 applicants to compete for a military academy scholarship. Despite early dreams of becoming an astronaut, Bailey won a scholarship to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The Merchant Marine Academy was Bailey’s first introduction to integrated education. One of only four African Americans in a student body of 1,000, he was often the object of racist jokes and harassment. As a midshipman at the Academy, Bailey visited more than twenty-three countries and ports of call and studied three foreign languages. In 1972, Bailey earned his B.S. degree in nautical science, becoming the twentieth African American to graduate from the Merchant Marine Academy.

Upon graduation, Sun Oil Company (now SUNOCO) hired Bailey as third mate, making him the company's first African American officer. In 1979, Bailey earned his pilot’s license with the Association of Maryland Pilots and became the first African American in the nation to receive a state-issued pilot’s license. As a ship pilot, Bailey traveled thousands of miles up and down the Chesapeake Bay. He became known by colleagues as “the singing pilot,” who would belt out Johnny Mathis tunes from the helm.

In 2004, Bailey founded the Captain Avis T. Bailey Mariner’s Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to mentor inner-city youth and to educate them about maritime careers. Bailey married Tamara Allenette Durant, a former flight attendant, in 2000. He has three sons, Christopher, Jason and Jarrett Bailey, and two stepsons, Luke and Shannon Durant. Bailey retired from the Association of Maryland Pilots in 2006 after a career that spanned thirty-four years.

Captain Avis T. Bailey was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 28, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.217

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

7/28/2007

Last Name

Bailey

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

T.

Occupation
Schools

Walker Jones R.H. Terrell Elementary School

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

Cardozo Senior High School

United States Merchant Marine Academy

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Avis

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BAI06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Don't Stick Your Nose In Other People's Business.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/19/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Corn

Short Description

Captain Capt. Avis T. Bailey (1949 - ) was the first African American officer in the SUNOCO fleet and the first African American to receive a state-issued pilot’s license. In 2004, he founded the Captain Avis T. Bailey Mariner’s Foundation to educate youth about maritime careers.

Employment

Sun Oil Company

Association of Maryland Pilots

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551969">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Capt. Avis T. Bailey's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551970">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551971">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551972">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551973">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551974">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey lists his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551975">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551976">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls the gangs in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551977">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes Walker-Jones Elementary School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551978">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his father's departure from the household</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551979">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his household</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551980">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls visiting historic landmarks in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551981">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his early experiences as a student</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551982">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes segregation in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551983">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers his early influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551984">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his commitment to education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551985">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers the summer program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551986">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his activities at Francis L. Cardozo Senior High School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551987">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551988">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers Principal Bennetta Bullock Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551989">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his decision to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551990">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his decision to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551991">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his experiences at the United States Merchant Marine Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551992">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his history professor at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551993">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers his English professor at the United States Merchant Marine Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551994">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his first year at the United States Merchant Marine Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551995">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about the U.S. Merchant Marine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551996">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls the riots of 1968 in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551997">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers his return to the United States Merchant Marine Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551998">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers traveling abroad with the U.S. Merchant Marine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551999">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey reflects upon his experiences abroad</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552000">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes the countries he visited with the U.S. Merchant Marine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552001">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers the Vietnam War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552002">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls the initiation process at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552003">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his graduation from the United States Merchant Marine Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552004">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers protesting the Vietnam War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552005">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls working for Sun Transport Incorporated</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552006">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers meeting his first wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552007">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his decision to become a ship pilot, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552008">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his decision to become a ship pilot, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552009">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about his role models</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552010">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers his experiences in Venezuela</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552011">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes the role of women in the U.S. Merchant Marine, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552012">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes the role of women in the U.S. Merchant Marine, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552013">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about his political beliefs during the 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552014">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his experiences as a junior ship pilot</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552015">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his rapport with foreign ship captains</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552016">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his community in Reisterstown, Maryland</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552017">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey recalls his return to Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552018">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his experiences as a ship pilot during the 1990s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552019">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about his musical interests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552020">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about his love of music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552021">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Captain Avis T. Bailey talks about his second wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552022">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes the Captain Avis T. Bailey Mariners Foundation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552023">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Captain Avis T. Bailey talks about the importance of education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552024">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552025">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552026">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552027">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey shares a message to future generations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552028">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his organizational memberships</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552029">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about his plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/552030">Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Capt. Avis T. Bailey narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

8$1

DATitle
Capt. Avis T. Bailey describes his experiences as a ship pilot during the 1990s
Capt. Avis T. Bailey talks about his love of music
Transcript
Any highlights in that period in the early '90s [1990s]?$$No, just--the highlights one of my favorite stories is is sailing the, the motor vessel Proof of Gallon [ph.] which was a spirits carrier. It carried scotches and bourbons whatever and small ship under two hundred feet long and I went to the ship and the--and I saw there were no tugboats around. I said so I asked the captain, I said, "Captain are you gonna undock it?" He said, "No you undock it." So I looked around and said okay well the wind was blowing off the dock so I said captain, I said, "You have to pay extra for me to undock." He said, "Okay you undock." I said, "Okay." So I put out a security call and said, "We're ready to undock here," and so I asked the captain one more time I said, "You know you're gonna pay for this? You sure you don't want to undock?" He said, "No you, you undock." "Okay." I said, "Let go all lines." So he let go all the lines and the lines were coming in the wind blew us off the dock about fifty feet. I said, "Pull ahead," (laughter). I said this was the most easiest undocking I've ever done you know. Okay. So they paid for it so. Okay I started not to charge him but I said no this is what what you have to do.$$Wow.$$But then again you have other things that are much harder to have a nine hundred eighty foot ship and the captain turn to me and says, "Captain can you un- can you dock it?" When he tried, he was gonna try to dock it but the fog shut in and you know we're pretty close to the dock this time and I said we did and I turned the ship around to go along side and he and then the fog lifted just when we were about twenty feet off dock. He says, "Well I got you now," but I said, "You're still gonna have to pay me for what I did so." Yeah.$$That's exciting stuff.$$Yeah sometimes it is exciting but sometimes it's a little hair raising. Had the Hyundai New World, a brand new ship on its maiden voyage and it was a coal ship (unclear) thirty-six feet I was taking it out and I just happened to leave my handheld radio in the office. I said well they got radios on the ship. But it was a brand new ship and they didn't have time, they didn't really charge the batteries for the backup and everything like that so, no communication. The ship everything stopped, blacked out and so we were in the main channel and the tugboats had left and so I went out there trying to flag them down to come back because there was only one other ship on the anchorage. And there's five anchorage sitting in Baltimore [Maryland], one ship on an anchorage and of course we're heading towards that ship. So I dropped the anchor at short stay and you know try to hold on with anchor and it's still going, still going so I dropped the other anchor and finally we stopped about seventy-five feet off the other ship and so.$$Close call.$$Yeah, so the engineers got the steam back up or the engines running, pulled up the anchors and the tugboat pushed us back into the channel and we went down the bay [Chesapeake Bay] and I got off at the mid bay station. We had mid bay station at this time, so in Solomons Island [Solomons, Maryland] so I got off there and Captain Hope [ph.] had come on. He was Kings Point [United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York] graduate also. He took the ship the rest of the way down the bay without incident but then he read when that ship was going into Brazil I believe it ran aground and broke in two. Lost the cargo, lost the ship too, brand new ship. Same thing happened everything went out.$$Millions of dollars.$$That can happen (laughter).$$Unbelievable.$So you were talking about music and your love of singing. Who were some of your influences?$$Johnny Mathis (laughter). Yeah, yeah. I like, I like singers that can pull up a chair and just entertain you with their voice. Sam Cooke was one and I used to love music because when back when I was a kid actually in I guess '59 [1958], '58 [1958] I used to sell glossies there at the Howard Theatre [Washington, D.C.] with a Mr. Gaffney [ph.]. Glossies are pictures of the acts that are there and I got to see a lot of the, you know, the James Brown revues and [HistoryMaker] Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Coasters, The Moonglows you know. People that and also my, my brother-in-law my--Earline's [Earline Bailey] husband used to fill in for the some of the guys if they were missing a guy you know with The Moonglows or, or The Clovers, he would fill in for them.$$Did you get to do any performing outside of the Merchant Marine Academy [United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York]?$$No, not I mean other than you know doing karaoke and stuff and like I seen at the Hotel Del Lago [Maracaibo, Venezuela] but professionally no. I might--I guess my biggest thing was singing at the, what is it the benefit there in New York City [New York, New York] at the Madison Square Garden, we sang there. Mickey Rooney introduced us and of that so. It was, it was nice.$$When was this?$$This is back in maybe '71 [1971], '70 [1970], '71 [1971].$$And aboard the ship who listens to you when you were singing aboard the ship?$$The, the quartermaster, the captain who was up there, whoever is up there on the bridge you know. 'Cause I'd be singing on, on the ship there. I guess it stems from when I was with Sun Oil Company [Sun Oil Company, Inc.; Sunoco, Inc.] because Sun Oil we, at that time a radio was not allowed on, on the bridge, radio for music that is. And I didn't need it because I knew most of the lyrics and just sang when I felt like singing and had this one quartermaster that he, he liked to sing too. So he used to sing in a country western band. Well I wasn't that keen on country western sung on my bridge so I told him he'd have to go out on the wing of the bridge to sing. But he said that's unfair so I challenged him to a sing off and said that, "I know more country western songs than you do." And I proved it. And so.$$Well what did you sing?$$Well see the thing about it back in 1963 [sic. 1962] Ray Charles came out with an album called 'Modern Sounds in Country Western Music' [sic. 'Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music'] and I know every song on the album so it was a no brainer for me.$$Are you a tenor?$$I've sang first tenor, second tenor, baritone and bass.$$Can you give us a bar or so of Ray Charles or Johnny Mathis?$$(Laughter) Let me see Johnny Mathis, (singing) "Arianne's an April morning that come slipping through my window, she's a smell of coffee brewing on a quiet rainy Sunday and the purring of a kitten that has made my neck a pillow for its bed." How is that?$$Lovely.$$That's "Arianne," that's one of my favorite by him.$$Thank you.$$Yeah.$$So that helped you as you traveled up and down the bay [Chesapeake Bay]?$$Yeah (laughter). I mean it you know it, it keeps you awake and cause see like I say it's a long bay I mean we've had that's why we have a mid bay station now down in Solomons Island [Solomons, Maryland] so the, the pilot can get relief if he needs to because it takes anywhere like I said from eight to sixteen hours to get up the bay depending on the speed of the ship. It's one hundred fifty-one miles. It's the longest pilotage for one pilot in the U.S. so.