Monday, April 24, 2006

The John F. Kennedy cadets.

(When I first saw this picture of Captain Austin C "Red" Wagner welcoming Mont J Smith and myself into the CGA in July 1964, I did not recognize myself. I had to be told that it was me. I had never really focused on my own image in a photo or in a mirror. When I was growing up, my parents did not have mirrors in the house. The toilet was outside. The only mirror in the house was over the bedroom dresser in my parent's bedroom. We rarely went in there. I was not vain about my appearance. I never looked in a mirror to check my appearance until about the tenth grade when we moved into a sub-division near E A Harrold School on Terrell Lane. These were the first projects in Millington. It was the first time I had lived in a house with an indoor toilet and with running hot and cold water. When I saw this picture and had to be told that was what I looked like it was the first time I became aware of what I must look like to others. That was the beginning of my conception of projecting a personal appearance to others. I was not particularly happy with what I saw. I saw a skinny, emaciated 17 year old with petrudung cheek bones, wearing a hat that was two sized too big, with dark ashey skin. I was glad that there were no girls attending CGA because I knew that hardly any of them would find me attractive. In an all male school I was not concerned about impressing anyone with my physical appearance. It is a wonder that I kept this picture all these years.)

Captain Austin C. "Red" Wagner, Commandant of Cadets welcomes swab cadet London Steverson to the Coast Guard Academy following the swearing-in ceremony.

When President John F. Kennedy was ready to break the color barrier at the last of the nation's military service academies, London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd were ready to answer the call. President Kennedy's New Frontier was to push the envelop in areas of our national life that had not been reached during the terms of President Harry S. Truman or President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A Presidential Executive Order 9981 issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces on July 26, 1948, but the nation's military service academies were lagging far behind in officer recruiting. As a precursor to President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs (Head Start, Civil Rights Bill, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and the appointment of Thurgood Marshall as the first Black Supreme Court Justice) President Kennedy challenged the U. S. Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students.

President John F. Kennedy had a closer relationship with the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) than with any other military academy. He kept his personal yacht at the CGA boat docks. It was the Coast Guard Yacht Manitou.

The words "Black cadet" or "African American cadet" had not yet entered the Coast Guard's lexicon until President John F. Kennedy issued the directive to find and recruit Black high school students. London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd were the first Black students to be offered an appointment in response to the increased emphasis on minority cadet recruiting. They were sworn in on June 10, 1964 in front of Hamilton Hall at the Coast Guard Academy. They were the only Black cadets in the Academy Class of 1968. London Steverson would become the first African American Coast Guard Academy graduate to retire from active duty as a regular line officer in June 1988.[http://]
The Academy would later learn that there was another African American cadet at the Academy. He had not been recruited as a "Black cadet"; nor, was he recognized as one by the Coast Guard Academy Admission's Office. He was Merle James Smith in the Class of 1966. He was not recognized as an African American because he did not physically resemble one. None of his school records labeled him as Black, and he had not been recruited as a minority candidate. His appointment had been tendered before President Kennedy issued the directive to find and appoint Black candidates for the Coast Guard Academy. His father, Colonel Merle Smith , Senior, was the Professor of Military Science at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland; and, he had formerly been an Army Staff officer at the Pentagon.
The only two Black cadets to have been recruited under the Kennedy Directive were London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd.

In 1964 London Steverson from Millington, Tennessee and Kenneth Boyd from Leonia, New Jersey were admitted as part of the Class of 1968. This was a small step for the Coast Guard Academy, but it was a giant step for African-Americans in the armed forces. It did not however amount to integration.

Two or three Black cadets out of a student body of about two thousand was not full integration. The presence of these token Black cadets did not effect the historical normal operations of the Coast Guard at all. These tokens were treated as honorary white cadets. At all social events, mixers, and athletic parties, the Social Hostess, Miss Judy Sinton, never provided any Black females. The Black cadets were allowed, even required, to choose escorts from the girls provided.

The physical appearance of these cadets was not immediately an indicator of their ethnic origins. Because all cadets wore shaved heads and dressed identically, an outside observer to the Academy's weekly full dress parade of the cadet corps, would be left with the impression that there were no Black cadets at the Academy.

The Black community of New London and Groton, Connecticut was amused when it was rumored that there were Black cadets in the corps. Merle Smith could "pass" for Caucasian. His parents were fair skinned and had fine patrician features. When Black spectators came to watch the entire corps of cadets march in parade, they frequently mistook Anthony Carbone and Donnie Winchester as the possible Black cadet. Carbone was an Italian, and Winchester was a Native American. They both were considerably darker than Merle Smith.

As late as 2007 someone in the Coast Guard Public Information Office and the Office of Personnel has tried to revise the official historical record. An attempt has been made to move the timeline backwards for the date a Black American male first accepted a tendered appointment as a cadet. Merle Smith received a principal appointment in 1962. All the evidence indicates that Merle Smith was the first African American to enter the Coast Guard Academy. In 2007 the Coast Guard through one of its agents tried to move the timeline back from 1962 to 1955. It was alleged that someone named Jarvis Wright accepted an appointment as a cadet in 1955. It is alleged that Jarvis Wright was Black.Jarvis L. Wright may be another case of “racial kidnapping”. From 1876 to 1961 there had never been a Black graduate from the Coast Guard Academy.

Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopedia, allowed someone in the Coast Guard to insert a reference to Jarvis Wright into an article concerning Black Cadets at the Coast Guard Academy. The Coast Guard must be extremely desperate to even attempt such a ploy as to try to move the time line for the first appointment tendered to a Black cadet back from 1962 to 1955, from Merle Smith to Jarvis Wright.

All history is spin, but this is revisionist history at its worst. Jarvis Wright is the original “invisible man”. Only a young naive person would even conceive of such a ridiculous thought. Anyone over 50 years old would know immediately that this is a most unlikely scenario.

In 1954 the Nation was undergoing a revolution. The Supreme Court was about to announce a “unanimous” Decision concerning racial segregation in the case of Brown v Board of Education. Everyone was riveted to their television screens watching the race riots in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not since the Civil War had the Southern states so openly defied the Federal Government. Racial integration was on everyone’s minds.

President Eisenhower was forced to choose between sending in Federal Troops or nationalizing the Arkansas National Guard to force Governor Orville Faubuss to allow Black students to enroll at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. He ended up using the Screaming Eagles from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

It is unthinkable that Coast Guard senior officers who were born and raised in the Deep South were secretly trying to recruit a Black; the first Black cadet in the history of the Academy. What idiot would even dream of such a nightmare? The thought is not even conceivable. Even the thought or the recommendation to do such a thing would have ruined any white officer’s career in the Coast Guard.

Jarvis Wright is the original “invisible man”. Where is the evidence that Jarvis Wright ever existed? What state did he come from? What high school did he graduate from? Where is the proof? There is none.

In the 50s and the 60s it was mandatory that a Black high school student applying to a white college was required to submit a photo with the application. They wanted to make sure that you were black, but not too black. This was one of the institutionalized segregationist racist practices that were abolished after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. I had to submit a photo with my application to the Coast Guard Academy in 1962 and 1963.

If Jarvis Wright ever existed, then the Coast Guard Academy and the Commandant, Office of Personnel would have his application and a photo as evidence. Some one should publish it.

Moreover, I worked in Coast Guard Headquarters in the Office of Personnel for seven years from 1972 to 1979, and no one ever mention anyone by the name of Jarvis Wright. I was the personification and the embodiment of Minority Recruiting for the Coast Guard. Except for Lcdr Maxie M. Berry in the Civil rights Office and LT. Earl Brown in the Office of Engineering, the only two other Black officers at Headquarters were assigned to my staff. They were ENS. Earl Martin and LTJG Walter Sapp. They worked for me. In no meetings or discussions, either formal or informal, did the name of Jarvis Wright ever come up.

This is just another reason the Coast Guard cannot be trusted to write history. Their motives are suspect. Anyone who would "take a bow" for recruiting white women as a minority deserves to be subjected to the strictest scrutiny before accepting such unbelievable claims more than 50 years after the fact. Could this be another case of Racial Kidnapping, as in the case of Michael Healy? The Coast Guard has been known to do this sort of this before. As President Reagan said “We must trust BUT verify”. Where is the proof? Show us a picture of Jarvis Wright? Or is he truly the invisible man?

It is highly questionable whether Jarvis Wright was recruited as an African American or was of a minority ethnic group, even if he ever existed, any more than Captain Michael Healy. He was a white Irish catholic who has been heralded by the Coast Guard as the “Black Hero of the North”, and as the first Black Captain in Coast Guard history. Mike Healy was not Black. He was a white, hard drinking Irishman.

Any student or writer of contemporary history has a duty to disclose his or her subjective values. This obligation is all the more imperative for an African American writing about the times and the events in which he lived. One must always seek to maintain critical distance from the subject. However, cold detachment is not required to be factually correct and objective.

Twenty years after my Coast Guard career ended, have given me sufficient distance to reflect soberly upon a subject that I find infinitely fascinating. That is to say, why did it take so long to allow African Americans to serve in the Coast Guard officer corps. Also, since I found it so easy to recruit Black male high school graduates to the Academy, why was I run out of that job after I had demonstrated that it could be done.

All history is spin. The history of the first Black cadets to enter the Coast Guard Academy is too complex and too serious to be left primarily to Coast Guard Public Information Officers whose first impulse is to make the Coast Guard look good and honorable. They would readily sacrifice truth and accuracy to do that.

The exclusion of African Americans from the Academy from 1876 until 1962 is a tragic fact of American history. My memory and interpretation of this history would be even more serious flawed than it undoubted is, were it not for the official records that I kept of every significant event that occurred in my life as a Coast Guard officer. My perspective my be subject to debate, but my facts are irrefutable.

Attrition rates for entering cadets were high, and the Class of 1968 was no exception. Of the 400 cadets entering in July 1964 as the Class of 1968, only 152 graduated. Both Steverson and Boyd, the two Black cadets in this class, completed the four years of indoctrination and graduated.

Because the orders to recruit the first Black cadets came down the Chain-Of-Command from President John F. Kennedy, the Commander-in-Chief, the first Black cadets were treated like sacred cows. There was zero attrition of Black cadets between 1962 and 1972. Every Black cadet who entered graduated. There was one Black cadet in the Class of 1970. He was Willie Pickrum, and he was from Maryland. I introduced him to my old girlfriend, Mary Noble. She was the daughter of a Navy submarine sailor at groton naval Base. Bill Pickrum married Mary Noble and went on to become a Coast Guard aviator.

Cadet Willie Pickrum leading the Drum and Bugle Corp, or the Beat and Blow, as it was called.

As a Swab, that is a Forth Class cadet, in the Class of 1970, Willie Pickrum precipitated the first "situation". It was a potential racial incident. He was an entering Swab, and my Class, the Class of 1968, was in charge of indocrinating the swabs. The Second Class cadets always indocrinate the cadets two years behind them. This incident occurred during the Summer of 1966.

Swab Willie Pickrum went to see his Company Tactical Officer and informed him that a certain cadet in the Class of 1968 had called him a "N***r", the dreaded "N-word". As soon as word reached the Commandant of Cadets, I found out about it. I was informed by Captain Curtiss J. Kelly. He called me into his office for a cup of coffee. That was the first time he had done that. I did not even know that he was aware of my presence before that time.

Captain Kelly explained the situation to me. He said that Swab cadet Pickrum had threatened to call the NAACP in New York and was going to ask for a full investigation. That did not sound very far fetched at the time. These were the 1960s and the country was in the grips of the Civil Rights Movement. Captain Kelly explained that the Coast Guard Academy had a proud history and that there had never been a Congressional Investigation or any other at the Coast Guard Academy. He certainly did not want the first one to occur on his watch.

It so happened that the alleged individual who was supposed to have used the "N-word" was my roommate. So, Captain Kelly asked me to talk to both of them and to see if we could work out a satisfactory solution. I did. Willie Pickrum received an apology; a few demerits were handed out, and the situation was defused. Captain Curtiss J. Kelly went on to become Commanding Officer of Coast GUard Activities Europe at the American Embassy in London, England.

That was not the first time that I had heard the "N-word" at the Academy. The first time was in 1966, when I was a Swab. My roommate came into the room after taking a shower and said "Man, my hair is getting to be as kinky as a "N***r"." I do not know if he knew whether I was in the room at the time or not, but he completely ignored me. I ignored the remark. Later, Mont J. Smith, my other roommate came to me and explained that the remark was not directed at me. It was just an expression that white boys used from time to time. I had assumed as much and had not taken offence.

In 1964 the Coast Guard Officer Corps was 99.44 percent white. Less than one-half of one percent of the officer corps was comprised of Black enlisted men who had been promoted to chief warrant officers. In 1973 the percentage of Black officers was still below one percent, but progress had been made. Also, President Kennedy was no longer Commander-in-Chief. With the large influx of Black cadets in 1973 and 1974 upper-class cadets were given the green light to weed out and to eliminate the less qualified Black entering cadets. The attrition rate for Black cadets reached astronomical levels. Up to 70 percent of the Black cadets entering were forced to resign before graduation.

At the Academy they had not been prepared for what awaited them out in the field. The all white officer corps was not prepared to accept the Black officers into the Ward Room with all the rights and privileges of white officers. Most of the white officers, both Northerners and Southerners, had never been to school with Black students and were not ready to live and work with them on ships and bases. The senior officers proved to be especially hostile to the new breed of officer.[citation needed]

Kenny Boyd did not survive his first duty station, the USCGC Dallas, at Governors Island, New York. He received such adverse fitness reports from his senior officers that he had to be removed from the ship. An Academy graduate is required to serve 5 years of obligated service before he can resign his commission. Kenny Boyd was not allowed complete his obligated service.

Merle Smith was forced to resign his regular commission prior to the earliest date he could have retired. He was given a commission in the Reserves to accumulate retirement points. He did not retire in 1986 with his Academy class. He retired in 1988.

London Steverson was promoted to (0-4), lieutenant commander in 1978, but he did not receive a promotion during the last ten years of his career. In 6 years he was passed over 5 times for promotion to (0-5), Commander. By an Act of Congress an officer attaining the rank of 0-4 is allowed to remain on active duty until the earliest date that he is eligible for retirement.

He believes that the reason he was not promoted beyond lieutenant commander has something to do with his tour of duty as Chief of the Minority Recruiting Section at Coast Guard Headquarters. In July 1972 Lieutenant London Steverson was reassigned from Juneau, Alaska to Washington, D.C.. He became the Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section (G-PMR-3), Office of Personnel, Coast Guard Headquarters, 400 D Street, SW, Washington, D.C., 20591 in the John Volpe Building under the Department of Transportation.

In July 1972 Steverson was reassigned from Alaska to Washington, D.C. to become the Chief of G-PMR-3, the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section at Coast Guard Headquarters. He was charged with working toward desegregating the nearly all-white US Coast Guard, starting with the United States Coast Guard Academy.

From 1876 until 1962 the Academy had not admitted any African-American cadets. One graduated in 1966, two graduated in 1968 (including Steverson) and one graduated in 1970. After that none were admitted until Steverson was placed in charge of the national recruiting effort. As the second minority cadet to enter and graduate from this institution, Steverson had obvious expertise in this endeavor.

1973 Conference of Minority Recruiters
One of the first thing that he did when he took over as Chief of the Minority Recruiting Branch (G-PMR-3) was to convene a conference of all of the Minority Recruiters from every district in the continental USA. It was important to see who they were and what they were doing. He wanted to make sure they were all marching to the beat of the same drum, that they all understood what the mandate was, and that the all knew who was running the show. He wanted their loyalty, and their dedication to the mission. Most of all, he wanted them to know that a new day had dawned and he would not be satisfied with business as usual. Lt(jg) Milt Moore in St. Louis was assigned the task of organizing and hosting the Conference in St. Louis. They all came; Charles Harper from Detroit, Gil Montoya from Los Angeles, Chief Lee Leyba from Albuquerque, Victor Jernigan, Lt Percy Norwood, Earl Martin from Headquarters, Vince Chavez, and others.

There were planned strategic efforts being made to recruit minorities before the formation of (G-PMR-3), but Capt Bill Butler came with a fresh approach. It was along the lines of “it takes a thief to catch a thief”. If we wanted to recruit more minorities, we needed to put minority officers and petty officers in charge of the program. The ideas of white men had been tried and they had not worked. All of their efforts through the years had come down to the exasperating expression that ‘The Coast Guard cannot compete with the Ivy League schools and Annapolis and West Point for the few QUALIFIED Black high school graduates each year, because we could not offer them what the competition could offer in terms of scholarships and guarantees of post graduate training. So, we were content to take the occasional lost soul who would settle for our less attractive offer.” That is how Captain Schroeder in G-PMR explained it.

One thing that had been done in the late 1960s was to give direct commissions as Ensigns to 16 Black graduates of the Black land-grant colleges in the South and make them work only in Office of Personnel in recruiting. These were colleges such as Tennessee A & I, Alcorn, North Carolina A & T, Philander Smith, Prarie View etc. It was a good idea and it had a noble purpose, but it backfired. The white OCS graduates and Academy graduates resented the 16 Black direct commission officers because they felt that the Black officers had received special treatment. It was felt that they did not earn their commissions, and that they were second class officers.

There was also a culture clash. The Black officers had come from all Black segregated schools and many had had only limited exposure to all white office environments. So, they were not acclimated to compromising in their speech and in their dress. They were Black, and they walked, talked, and dressed Black. That meant that their clothes might not have been expensive, but they were classy and in style. They dressed like in GQ magazine. Their accessories were European. For example, their suits were cut to fit skin tight; so, wallets, keys, money, and other things could not be carried in their pockets. That meant that they had to carry men’s clutch bags, like the men in Italy and France carried.

Well, when they reported for duty at Coast Guard Headquarters with clutch bags, the white officers laughed at them and called them queer. It was said that they were carrying ladies purses.

Moreover, during the 60s men wore their hair long, all men. Black men sported the Afro, natural hair style. It was not conducive to the military service cap and other head gear. So, many of the Black direct commission officer would not wear their dress service caps. They would carry them in a bag. Or, if they wore them, their hair would resemble a bird’s nest, and they would have to go to the toilette to freshen up after removing the service cap. This was called picking out your Afro.

In the Navy, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt had authorized the Black Navy and enlisted men to wear the Afro. In fact, grooming standards were relaxed all around. Admiral Zumwalt was given this advice from Lt Jerry Moore, the Chief of Navy Minority Recruiting at the Washington Yard. Jerry Moore had coined the phrase “You can be Black, and Navy, too”. In fact, he had built an entire advertising campaign around that theme. It was carried in most major Black media, such as, Ebony, Jet, Black Sports magazine, and others. Ensign Earl Martin introduces Lt Steverson to Jerry Moore. The Coast Guard Minority Recruiting program was modeled along the lines of the Navy’s program. Jerry Moore showed Steverson all the things that had worked for him. Jerry Moore’s father was the Reverend Jerry Moore, Senior. He was a Washington, DC City Councilman.

He traveled the country looking for qualified minority high school students who could compete for admission. Since the Coast Guard Academy is the only one of the United States military academies that does not require a Congressional appointment, and admission is strictly on the basis of the Scholastic Aptitude Test with additional consideration of extra-curricular involvement, minority applicants stood a better chance of being admitted to the Coast Guard Academy than to Annapolis, West Point or the Air Force Academy.

His efforts were rewarded in 1973 when 28 Black cadets were sworn into the Class of 1977, and again in 1974 when 20 Black cadets were admitted as part of the Class of 1978. It was from these cadets that the Coast Guard's first African-American officers of flag rank were to come in the 1990's; officers such as Admiral Joseph Jones, Admiral Errol Brown and Admiral Manson K. Brown.

While Lieutenant Steverson was charged first and foremost with recruiting cadets for the Academy (because that is where the bulk of the career officers would come from), he was also requested to find minority college graduates who were willing receive direct commissions as lawyers and as aviators. These officers were already college graduates and had no need to attend the four year Academy, instead received a three month orientation at the Coast Guard Officer Training Center. He recruited several people from the Vanderbilt University Law School.

As the Chief of the Minority Recruiting Section he desegregated the all-white United States Coast Guard Academy by recruiting more than 50 minority cadets in a two year period from 1973 to 1974.

From 1876 until 1962 the Academy had not admitted any African-American cadets. Given a free hand, open traveling orders, and a budget Lt. Steverson was able to reach out to the parents of the best and the brightest in the Black community across the nation. He attended the National Conventions of the NAACP, Operation PUSH, and the Black American Law Students. He established a Sponsor Program where an active duty officer was given the name, address, and telephone number of the most promising applicants to maintain their interest in the Academy. He sponsored familiarization trips to the Academy for the applicants and their parents for all finalist who were interested in seeing the Academy grounds. The first year on the job he was able to deliver 28 bodies to the steps of Chase Hall on Admissions Day to take the Oath of a Cadet. The second year, using the same programs, he was able to deliver another 20 African-American high school graduates to be sworn in as freshman cadets. It was from these African-American high school students that the Coast Guard's first officers of flag rank were to come.

In 1964 the Coast Guard Officer Corps was 99.44 percent white. Less than one-half of one percent of the officer corps was comprised of Black enlisted men who had been promoted to chief warrant officers.

CWO2 Oliver T. Henry was London Steverson's Godfather.

These were men like CWO Oliver T. Henry and CWO Maxie M. Berry and Herbert Collins.

In 1973 the percentage of Black officers was still below one percent, but progress had been made. Also, President Kennedy was no longer Commander-in-Chief. With the large influx of Black cadets in 1973 and 1974 upper-class cadets were given the green light to weed out and to eliminate the less qualified Black entering cadets. The attrition rate for Black cadets reached astronomical levels. Up to 70 percent of the Black cadets entering were forced to resign before graduation.

At the Academy they had not been prepared for what awaited them out in the field. The all white officer corps was not prepared to accept the Black officers into the Ward Room with all the rights and privileges of white officers. Most of the white officers, both Northerners and Southerners, had never been to school with Black students and were not ready to live and work with them on ships and bases. The senior officers proved to be especially hostile to the new breed of officer.

Lcdr Steverson was forced to retire in July 1988 with 20 years of active service. His last two years of active duty at Governors Island, New York were very aggravating. After completing a tour of duty at the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System (NNBIS) in the World Trade Center, Captain John Lennon, Third District Chief of Operations, relieved him of all responsibilities. He was required to report for work every morning, but he had no official position. The one thing that he was required to do was to appear for drug tests once per month. Drug screening test were officially required to be random, but in Lcdr Steverson’s case they were targeted and regular. On one particular occasion when he was not scheduled for a drug test and he took a late lunch in uptown Manhattan, he was required to report to the Personnel Office upon his return to base. He was ordered to submit a urine sample several hours after the test had been conducted. Considering the number of "false positives" that occured at the drug screening laboratory and the number of samples that were mis-labeled, it is a small miracle that Steverson was able to retire without being accused of failing to pass a drug test.

After 20 years his Coast Guard career fizzled out. It ended with a whimper. There was no retirement party or luncheon; no Achievement Medal or citation; not even a hand shake from Captain John Lenno, who was his commanding officer, at the time. One Friday afternoon, someone sneaked into his office and left his official retirement certificate on top of the desk. And that was it.

Lcdr Steverson at Fances'Tavern,NYC. Transfer luncheon for Lt. John Glantz, his assistant at MIO, NY. 1986.

After all the retirement luncheons he has organized for other officers, and all of the dollars that he had contributed to buy retirement gifts for other retiring officers, his last day on active duty was marked by a long walk to the Governors Island Ferry and a long ride home.

This Blog started as an attempt to record my experiences in the Coast Guard for my children. I had this notion that one day they were going to ask me "What did you do in the war, Daddy?" I sat down with a laptop computer and started to write. One idea lead to another; and, one memory gave rise to another. Before I knew it, the volume of my memories, experiences and opinions began to mushroom.

I am no historian in the Thusydides (c.460 - 400 B.C.) sense, but I am the most knowledgeable person in the world about my chosen subject; that is, what I did during my 24 years in the Coast Guard, who I did it with, when I did it, where I did it, and why I did it.

I have no illusions about the importance of these writings. I am quite aware that my writings very much resemble the chirpings of a small bird at the top of his voice in a soundproof cage. I feel like Cadet Webster Smith must have felt when he said at his court-martial that he was glad that he had fought for his career.

Well, I am glad that I started to let my little light shine, because it has shone light in a corner of history that for too long has been neglected. Without my writings, the evidence of the first Black cadets in Chase Hall would have been swept into the dust-heap of History along with many of the unrecorded contributions of other African-Americans who have contributed to the building of the United States of America.

Judge London Steverson
London Eugene Livingston Steverson
 (born March 13, 1947) was one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1968. Later, as chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), he was charged with desegregating the Coast Guard Academy by recruiting minority candidates. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and in 1990 was appointed to the bench as a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration.

Early Life and Education
Steverson was born and raised in Millington, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Ruby Steverson. At the age of 5 he was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold elementary school in a segregated school system. He later attended the all black Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating valedictorian.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948,[1] but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President Kennedy specifically challenged the United States Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students. London Steverson was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment, and when he accepted the opportunity to be part of the class of 1968, he became the second African American to enter the previously all-white military academy. On June 4, 1968 Steverson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a BS degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1974, while still a member of the Coast Guard, Steverson entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University and graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.

USCG Assignments.
Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [2] (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy, and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker General SanMartin, which they freed.
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in Juneau, Alaska as a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands.[3]
Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was en route to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people on board and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast.[4]. Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure.[5]
Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the Kolevan and the Lamut for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States territorial waters. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian MIG fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from Elmendorf Air Force Base before the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back

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Blogger ichbinalj said...

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3:15 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

First Black CGA graduate publically recognized for the first time at Aug 2006 Convocation.
In his remarks Admiral James Van Sice said, among other things, that the first Academy graduate was Cadet Ross in 1879. This past May the
10,000th cadet received his degree and commission.

This year we recognize the 40th anniversary of the first
graduate and as you all are aware of this weekend’s commemoration, we
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the acceptance of women to the
Academy. I
highly encourage you to join me in participating in this historic event
we commemorate 30 years of leadership and service.

Both of these anniversaries signify the changes our Academy has made in
order to become a stronger institution, more prepared than ever to
serve our
great nation.

Diversity has made this country strong and it makes this Academy
strong. It
is what this country was built on.

Our ancestors have come from every race and religion…every culture and
geographic area…as a group; we possess a wide expanse of educational
backgrounds and life experiences. It is our mutual respect for each
uniqueness that makes us collectively stronger, more intelligent and
able to cope with, manage, and lead our organization.

What unities us in our differences is that we all want to succeed and
others live a life of selfless service.

1:00 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

President John F. Kennedy rarely intervened but he did so on occasion quickly and decisively and in a way illustrative of his administration's civil rights style. He acted promptly, for example, when he noticed an all-white unit from the Coast Guard Academy marching in his inaugural parade. His call to the Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon on inauguration night led to the admission of the first black students to the Coast Guard Academy

1:16 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

President Kennedy was also upset to see "few, if any" Black honor guardsmen in the units that greeted visiting Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah on 13 March, an observation not lost on Secretary McNamara. "Would it be possible," the new defense chief asked his manpower assistant, "to introduce into these units a reasonable number of Negro personnel?" An immediate survey revealed that Negroes accounted for 14 percent of the Air Force honor unit, 8 percent of the Army's, and 2.2 percent of the Marines Corps'. The 100-man naval unit had no black members.
If not conducive to substantive change in the lot of the black serviceman, the President's intervention signaled in a way clearly understood by Washington bureaucrats that a new style in executive politics was at hand and a new awareness of the racial implications of their actions was expected of them.

1:20 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The Kennedy Administration and Civil Rights. The Department of Defense, 1961-1963.
Especially galling to civil rights leaders was the conviction that the armed forces had set up artificial and self-imposed barriers to a needed social reform. In the end this conviction seemed to spur them on. The civil rights leaders, however, rejected the federal government's acceptance of the status quo.
Robert S. McNamara, President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, was
reminded of John F. Kennedy's claim in the presidential campaign of 1960 that discrimination could be alleviated with a stroke of the Chief Executive's pen.
The strong connection between black morale and military efficiency made it likely that the new Secretary of Defense would be intimately concerned with problems of discrimination. Highly trained in modern managerial techniques Robert S. McNamara came to the Pentagon with the idea of instituting a series of fundamental changes in the management of the armed forces through manpower reorganization and what was becoming known as systems analysis. Whatever his attitude toward racial justice, his initial interest in the Defense Department's black employees, military and civilian, was closely linked to his concern for military efficiency. Less than a week on the job, he called for information on the status of Negroes in the department.
McNamara, like President Kennedy, would warm to the civil rights cause and eventually both would become firmly committed.

1:28 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The Kennedy administration has been closely identified with civil rights, yet the President's major biographers and several of his assistants agree that his commitment to civil rights reform did not emerge full-blown on inauguration day. It was only in the last months of his administration that Kennedy, subjected to civil rights demands and sharing the interests and experiences of his brother Robert, the Attorney General, threw himself wholeheartedly into the civil rights fray. As senator and later as President, Kennedy was sympathetic to the aspirations of the black minority, appreciated its support in his campaign, but regarded civil rights as one, and not the most pressing, problem facing the Chief Executive. Even his administration's use of federal marshals during the freedom rides in 1961 and its use of both marshals and troops at Oxford, Mississippi, in 1962 and troops again in Alabama in 1963 were justified in the name of enforcement of federal judicial processes. Well into 1963 he studiously downplayed the civil rights issues involved.
Kennedy was convinced that the only answer to the injustices suffered by Negroes was a series of strong laws, but he was also certain that such legislation was impossible to achieve in 1961. To urge it on an unwilling Congress would only jeopardize his legislative program, increase the black minority's feeling of frustration, and divide the nation in a period of national crisis. Discussing the Civil Rights Commission's "non-negotiable" demands concerning the organized reserves, for example, commission member Father Theodore Hesburgh remembered the President saying: Look, l have a serious problem in West Berlin, and I do not think this is the proper time to start monkeying around with the Army.... I have no problem with the principle of this, and we'll certainly be doing it, but at this precise moment I have to keep uppermost in mind that I may need these units . . . and I can't have them in the midst of a social revolution while I'm trying to do this.
Kennedy temporized. He would promptly and positively endorse the principle of equal rights and enforce the civil rights decisions of the Supreme Court through negotiation, moral suasion, executive order, and, when necessary, through the use of federal marshals. The Justice Department meanwhile would pursue a vigorous course of litigation to insure the franchise for Negroes from which, he believed, all civil blessings flowed.

1:32 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The phenomenon known as "passing as white" is difficult to explain in other countries or to foreign students. Typical questions are: "Shouldn't Americans say that a person who is passing as white is white, or nearly all white, and has previously been passing as black?" or "To be consistent, shouldn't you say that someone who is one-eighth white is passing as black?" or "Why is there so much concern, since the so-called blacks who pass take so little negroid ancestry with them?" Those who ask such questions need to realize that "passing" is much more a social phenomenon than a biological one, reflecting the nation's unique definition of what makes a person black. The concept of "passing" rests on the one-drop rule and on folk beliefs about race and miscegenation, not on biological or historical fact.
The black experience with passing as white in the United States contrasts with the experience of other ethnic minorities that have features that are clearly non-caucasoid. The concept of passing applies only to blacks--consistent with the nation's unique definition of the group. A person who is one-fourth or less American Indian or Korean or Filipino is not regarded as passing if he or she intermarries and joins fully the life of the dominant community, so the minority ancestry need not be hidden. It is often suggested that the key reason for this is that the physical differences between these other groups and whites are less pronounced than the physical differences between African Blacks and whites, and therefore are less threatening to whites. However, keep in mind that the one-drop rule and anxiety about passing originated during slavery and later received powerful reinforcement under the Jim Crow system.

5:58 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Bill OK'd to increase Blacks at Coast Guard Academy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The House voted overwhelmingly for a bill that includes a provision giving members of Congress a say over who is admitted to the U.S. Coast Guard's 1,000-cadet service academy in New London, Conn.

The measure — part of a multi-billion-dollar authorization bill that passed 385-11 on Friday — was sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who argues that congressional nominations are needed to help increase the number of Blacks enrolled at the CGA and graduate as commissioned officers.

The CGA is the only service academy that does not have congressional nominations and has no requirements for geographical distribution.

Four Blacks graduated in the spring. More recently, five Blacks were admitted for the Class of 2013. At present, its four classes include 25 Blacks.

5:01 PM  

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