Black Army Officer Finally Commissioned After 76 Years
John Earl James Jr completed Officer Candidate School in 1942. But the color of his skin kept him from being commissioned as an officer. It was common in those days for discrimination to block men from advancement. But on June 29, the tenacity of his daughter, and the help of Democrat Senator Bob Casey, finally gave him the commission – a black Army officer that should have had his 2nd Lieutenant bars in 1942.
James’ daughter Dr Marion Teresa Lane, ran across her father’s photo of his graduation from OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia. No one in the family knew that he was uncommissioned as an officer. He told her to throw the picture away because it didn’t “mean anything.” He told WHYY that there were 21 blacks in his graduating class, the rest were white. But his commander pulled him aside and told him he wasn’t receiving a commission and then transferred him away.
Dr. Lane decided to pursue the honor for her father, even though he is now 98 years old.
Station whyy in Philadelphia reported,
The James family history has a long military streak: They have had an ancestor in every American war since the Revolutionary War (except the Spanish-American war, which the Jameses sat out).
Because of her lineage, Lane belongs to 13 heritage organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution. The former national president of the Society of Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge, she currently is on the board of the Museum of the American Revolution.
With all that under her belt, as well as a 38-year career in public education, Lane said she knows how to work through red tape. She was determined to get her father’s commission.
“Tenacity is my middle name,” she said.
And she proved that to be true. After her request was denied by the Army several times due to some of the records being destroyed in a fire, she finally got the attention of Senator Bob Casey. His office took up the cause and got it pushed through. And on June 29, in a ceremony with Senator Casey and General John Jumper, a US Vietnam veteran, at the Museum of the American Revolution, he received his 2nd Lieutenant’s bars.
“Although not awarded the commission owed to him, he bravely rose to face one of our most challenging times in history. He was denied recognition of his service to his country simply because of his race, because of the color of his skin.” Senator Casey
America righted a wrong on June 29. It was a tad late, but at least it happened. There are likely scores of other WWII veterans like 2nd Lt John James Jr who haven’t had the aid of a US Senator. Continuing the legacy of a military family, another generation of his family, his grand-nephew, has now enlisted in the US Army.
Featured photo: screenshot via the Museum of the American Revolution.