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The Buffalo Soldiers: Men of Honor

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From the Revolutionary War on, African Americans have fought in every major conflict in which the United States has been involved. Each time, black soldiers were committed to combat in racially segregated units, and had to prove themselves all over again. Regardless, we served with distinction.

Of the one million Black Americans selected for Army duty during World War II, only one black division saw infantry combat in Europe: the 92nd Infantry division.

The vast majority of African Americans in uniform were assigned to segregated construction or supply units or placed in units that performed unpleasant duties such as graves registration. The government’s view was that blacks were not motivated enough or aggressive enough to fight.

In the spring of 1944, after years of pressure from the black community, the government grudgingly rescinded its policy excluding African American soldiers from combat.

While the 92nd was referred to as a black unit, and its enlisted men and most of its junior officers were black, its higher officers were white. The 92nd, which had fought in France during World War I, was once again activated in 1942. Under the command of Major General Edward M. Almond, the 92nd began combat training in October 1942 and went into action in Italy in the summer of 1944.

The unit continued a long and proud tradition by retaining the buffalo as its divisional symbol. The 92nd even kept a live buffalo as a mascot.

The nickname “Buffalo Soldier” dates back to the late 1860s, when black soldiers volunteered for duty in the American West. The American Indians coined the phrase “Buffalo Soldier” out of respect for their worthy enemy. According to one story, the Indians thought that the black soldiers, with their dark skin and curly hair, resembled buffaloes. Another story attributes the name to the buffalo hides that many black soldiers wore during the harsh winters out west, as a supplement to their inadequate government uniforms.

When the Buffalo Soldiers deployed along the front, they began to work together with the tankers of the U.S. 1st Armored Division.

The main attack started on September 10, and three days later the Buffalo Soldiers and the 1st Armored tankers stood at the base of the northern Apennines. This momentum continued as the Buffalo Soldiers entered the Serchio Valley in the later part of the month.

Two black officers leading the Buffalo Soldiers were Lt. Otis Zachary and Lt. John Fox. Zachary and Fox were best friends. As a matter of fact, Zachary stood as Fox’s best man.

By now, the Buffalo Soldiers controlled the crucial east-west communications artery for the Germans.

In early October, they were ordered to take the city of Massa, near the coast, which was the first step in capturing the enemy’s naval base at La Spezia. The Germans resisted fiercely. Beset by cold autumn rains, the Buffalo Soldiers found themselves fighting an additional enemy—mud.

After a six-day battle for control of Massa, the Buffalo Soldiers pulled back to regroup. A fourth regiment with black soldiers, and men came under the division’s control. The 366th Infantry regiment had originally trained for combat but had been initially assigned to guard duty on Allied air bases throughout Italy. The men of the 366th had performed so well in their former assignment, their commanding general did not want to give them up. Curtis and Mariah’s second born son, First Sgt. Carud (pronounced Cord) Bailey was a member of this regiment.

As the Buffalo Soldiers moved deeper into the Serchio Valley, re-supply became a logistical nightmare. No vehicles could reach the Buffalo Soldiers as they fought their way to the high ground of the 35-miles-long valley. The Buffalo Soldiers found themselves depenedent upon pack animals, the same mode of transport employed by Hannibal when he invaded Italy more than 2100 years earlier.

On Christmas Eve, the second battalion of the Buffalo Soldiers was sent into the little village of Sommocolonia. There seemed to be little enemy activity, so most of the 2nd battalion moved out for duty elsewhere, leaving only two platoons. Before sunrise on the day after Christmas, the Germans attacked Sommocolonia, and with two hours, the two American platoons were surrounded. A third platoon moved up to reinforce the embattled Sommocolonia troops. Lt. John Fox, an artillery forward observer for the 366th was a member of that platoon. When enemy troops surrounded the lieutenant’s position inside a house, and were about to over-run him, he ordered artillery fire directly on his own position.

Receiving that order was Fox’s best friend and best man, Lt. Otis Zachary. Zachary immediately recognized that such action would result in grave detriment to his friend John Fox. Maj-General Edward Almond intervened and ordered Zachary to fire.

What would you do if you were Zachary? Would you follows orders and kill your best friend, or would you face court martial?

I’m Colonel Butch Murphy U.S. Army retired. Join us tomorrow for the outcome.

For Spanish and hearing impaired versions, please go to the Febone1960.net Black History Month Calendar

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    Posted 4 years, 5 months ago at 11:55 pm. Add a comment

    The Unforgettable Marge Ward

    Ed: Maaarge!
    Marge: Yes Ed
    Ed: Maaarge!
    Marge: What is it Ed?
    Ed: Maaarge!
    Marge What do you want Ed?
    Ed: Maaarge!
    Marge gets up and goes to Ed.
    Marge: What Ed!
    Ed: I’m Teepy.

    It seems just like yesterday when Ed and Marge Ward would routinely carry on this exchange in their Bogota New Jersey home.

    I recall vividly Marge wearing her trademark denim skirt and blouse, would sit at the small kitchen table and read while listening to the news on the small black and white television which was situated on the cabinet counter as you entered the kitchen.

    Ed of course could always be found resting comfortably on their bed as he drank a glass of Cognac, smoked a Winston cigarette while watching the same news channel.

    Occasionally she would look up and maybe even yell at the television when she was watching one of those political programs like the McLaughlin Report.

    Marge Ward

    Marge Ward

    Marjorie Alverta Johnson was born August 20, 1927 to Reverend Julius P. Johnson and Mrs. Marjorie Alverta Harris Johnson in Rome, Georgia. Her mother died when she was 6 years old and her father later married Nonie Springs Johnson when Marjorie was 9 years old. She and her younger sister Luella were raised in Salisbury, North Carolina.

    On June 6, 1948, she married Ed who would be known as the Reverend Dr. Edgar William Ward, a Presbyterian minister in a double wedding with her sister Luella and Robert Graves.

    Marjorie always thought that education was extremely important. During her school years in Salisbury, North Carolina, Marjorie’s lifelong interests were born. She ran track, was in the drama club, served on the debate team, was in the speech choir and sang second soprano in the choir.

    Always an avid reader, Marjorie was made a junior librarian at her school.

    Marge graduated as Valedictorian from Price High School and in 1948, graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in Religious Education and English/Social Studies at nearby Barber Scotia College.

    At the age of 49, she received her M.A. Degree in Urban Education and Community Affairs from William Patterson College of New Jersey.

    Although her employment background included jobs in community organization, social work, Christian education, public education and government, her lifelong commitment was to the Presbyterian Church.

    Marge’s grandfather, father, and father-in-law were all Presbyterian ministers.

    Ed also received the calling as a Presbyterian minister.

    Ed and Marge had lived in many locals, including New Jersey where Ed worked as an administrator in the Presbyterian Church’s New York headquarters. Marge was a middle school teacher in the Teaneck school system.

    As a result of the reuniting of the Presbyterian Church, which had split at the beginning of the civil war, Ed and Marge headed to Louisville, Kentucky where the Church headquarters had relocated.

    Marge retired from the New Jersey school system and started a second career with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). One of her special areas of service was Manager of the General Assembly Committee on Representation. In that capacity, she provided creative leadership and resourcing for Synod and Presbytery Committees on Representation which monitored the inclusion of racial ethnic persons on staff and committees. She also served on the Presbyterian Committee on Self-Development of People, a national program of the General Assembly which promoted projects that resulted in long-term change in people’s lives and their communities.

    Shortly after moving to Louisville, her beloved Ed was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite Marge’s vigorous support, Ed lost his battle with the disease.

    After Ed’s death, Marge moved to Greensboro, NC where her only sister resided. The two had a relationship that others did not quite understand, but the two sisters understood it, and that was all that mattered.

    After retiring from the General Assembly office, Marge continued her work as a proud Presbyterian as convener for the 2007 National Black Presbyterian Caucus Circle of Elders, where she organized the collection of Black Presbyterian church histories and artifacts for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Black Presbyterian Churches in the USA. She also served on the Board of Governors for the Presbyterian Homes, Inc. and on the Board of Trustees of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary.

    After her relocation to Greensboro, Marge was an active member and Elder at Saint James Presbyterian Church where she was a member of the Grace Brown Circle, the Evangelism Team, the Inspirational Ensemble, and the Radical for Christ Sunday School Class.

    In typical Marge Ward fashion, she was also the self-appointed manager of the New Generation Praise Team. Her work in the church included her tireless commitment to encourage diversity and inclusion in leadership roles throughout the life of the local, regional and national church.

    Known to many as Mother Ward, she engaged people of all ages and every walk of life, motivating, encouraging and supporting their academic and career choices financially and emotionally.

    In the early morning of February 6, 2010 Ed softly and gently called out to Marge:

    Ed: Maaarge!
    Marge: Yes Ed.
    Ed: Maaarge!
    Marge: What is it Ed?
    Ed: I’m lonely.

    After tiring from her own vigorous battle with cancer, Marge peacefully joined Ed in eternal life.

    Carrying on her legacy of love and faith are her devoted daughter and son-in-law, Dr. Lucia Ward-Alexander (Mr. Melvin T. Alexander II) of Baltimore, Md.; sister Mrs. Luella Graves (Mr. Robert Graves) of Greensboro, N.C.; and a host of loving family members and friends.

    Family hour will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 13, 2010, followed by a celebration of Life at 2 p.m. at St. James Presbyterian Church, 820 Ross Avenue, Greensboro, N.C. Services will be officiated by Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett.

    In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you send donations in memory of Marjorie Johnson Ward to Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, 700 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr., SW, Atlanta, Ga. 30314 or to the Touching Lives Foundation, c/o St. James Presbyterian Church, 820 Ross Avenue.

    See Family Obituary at Last Mile Of The Way

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      Posted 4 years, 5 months ago at 9:42 am. Add a comment

      A Lawyer Is A Social Engineer

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      While in D.C., Clarence Mathews became acquainted with Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston the Dean of Howard University School of Law is recognized as the architect behind the extermination of the separate but equal doctrine.

      Houston was born in Washington, D.C. on September 31, 1895 to William Lapre Houston and Mary Hamilton Houston. Houston’s roots can be traced to his maternal great grandfather Jesse Hamilton, a free black. Jesse Hamilton and Houston’s grand- father, Ray Hamilton had neighboring farms near Stephen Williamson in Rock Hill, S.C. Stephen Williamson was the maternal great grandfather of Alice Webb Bailey, Curtis and Mariah’s daughter in law.

      Houston completed high school at the age of 15 and graduated as one of six valedictorians from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1915. He then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., for two years until the onset of World War I. Houston enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Europe in World War I as a second lieutenant in field artillery.

      As a result of some of his experiences in the segregated and racist army, Houston decided that he needed to become an advocate to enforce the legal rights of the oppressed. In pursuit of this, following his honorable discharge from the army in 1919, Houston enrolled at Harvard Law School from which he earned his Bachelor of Laws in 1922 and a doctorate in 1923. Houston was a stellar student and became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He studied law at the University of Madrid until 1924 when he returned to Washington, DC, and joined his father’s law practice.

      In 1924 he also began to teach part time at Howard University School of Law, then a part-time night school. Through that time Howard University School of Law had trained approximately three fourths of the approximately 950 African American lawyers practicing in the United States.

      At the urging of Houston, the Howard University Trustees recreated Howard University School of Law as a full-time day school and in 1929, Houston was placed in charge with the title of Resident Vice-Dean.

      During Houston’s six year tenure as vice-dean, Howard University School of Law was training almost a quarter of the nation’s black law students. Houston also oversaw the dramatic change which led to Howard University School of Law being accredited by the American Bar Association and meeting the standards for being admitted to the Association of American Law Schools.

      Together with a select group of mostly Howard lawyers, including future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and working through the NAACP and later the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Houston created a number of precedents that ultimately led to the dismantling of de jure discrimination after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

      Among the major steps were Pearson v. Murray (1936) and State ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1939). In Pearson Houston and Thurgood Marshall established in the Maryland highest court that the University of Maryland could not exclude African Americans as it had excluded Marshall just a few years earlier. In Gaines this principle was extended to the entire country when the U.S. Supreme Court held that Missouri could not exclude blacks from the state law school since there was no comparable, and could be no comparable school for African Americans because of the unique intangibles of a legal education, in Missouri. Ultimately this precedent was extended to other schools and ultimately down to public primary and secondary education.

      Between the Murray case and the Gaines case, Houston and Marshall successfully attacked the un-equalization of teachers’ salaries. Before the legal challenge, white teachers were paid more than black teachers.
      Eventually, Houston left the NAACP whereupon, Thurgood Marshall, became his replacement. Marshall continued down the path he and Houston had stamped out. Marshall decided to attack Jim Crow in his own backyard, the south. In the meantime, Houston turned his attention to public accommodations, transportation, housing, labor, and the integration of the armed forces and defense industry.

      Charles Hamilton Houston wrote: “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.”
      While serving as vice dean, Howard University School of Law, Houston use to greet his future social engineers. He would then ask them to look to left and to their right. The people to your left or right may not be here to graduate with you for academic reasons. Please remember, you are sitting to someone’s left and/or someone’s right.
      Curtis and Mariah’s granddaughter Valerie would hear these words out of the mouth of Dean Wiley Branton on her first day of Howard’s Law School. Wiley Branton, an Arkansas native, served on the NAACP Legal Defense team with Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston.

      Star Jones narrated the clip. Please join us tomorrow as we continue to explore standing on the shoulders of unsung heroes.

      For Spanish and hearing impaired versions, please go to the Febone1960.net Black History Month Calendar

      What’s Your Take On The Matter? Register and/or sign in and sound off!

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        Posted 4 years, 5 months ago at 3:59 am. Add a comment