Saturday, May 26, 2012

African American who broke the color barrier at Naval Academy dies at 85

Yesterday the reported: America has lost another hero; Lieutenant Commander Wesley A. Brown died on May 22, 2012. He was 85 years old.

 The Military Times reports that,
An academy spokesman did not know where Brown died, and a cause of death was not immediately known Wednesday.

Lieutenant Commander Brown was born on April 3, 1927 in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington D.C., where he was the Cadet Corps Battalion Commander during his senior year.

He was the sixth African-American to attend the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland. However, he was the first to graduate.

He was nominated for admission to the Naval Academy by New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Once Brown was appointed, he entered the USNA on June 30, 1945 and graduated on June 3, 1949.

He ran varsity track while at the Naval Academy and was a cross-country team-mate of Jimmy Carter. The former President wrote a letter to Brown in 1989 giving him encouragement to "hang in there."

Navy historian Robert J. Schneller Jr. wrote a book about Brown called, "Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality."

Schneller said in a 2005 interview,
That upperclassmen would give Brown excessive demerits for allegedly not maintaining his uniform properly, and some classmates would not sit next to him in the cafeteria.

Brown told the Baltimore Sun in a 2005 interview,
He learned not to be frustrated when faced by a situation that couldn't be changed.
When I came to the academy, I learned that there were all kinds of prejudices - against Jews, Catholics, even the Irish - and I looked around and thought that these prejudices were instilled in them by their families, and they could not be blamed for feeling the way they did.

Brown was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam War. He retired at the rank of Lieutenant Commander in June 1969 from the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps.

His career spanned 20 years with the Navy, and it's reported during that time,
He built houses in Hawaii, roads in Liberia, waterfront facilities in the Philippines, and a seawater conversion plant in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In 1988 he retired from Howard University, where he worked as a civilian service employee. In 2008 the Naval Academy honored Brown by having a field house built and named after him.

 Brown told The Baltimore Sun in the same year,
I believe this is symbolic, some of the Navy policies, procedures in the past, have not been the kind that African-Americans were in favor of. And I think this indicates their dedication to diversity in general.

The notable accomplishments of Lieutenant Commander Brown are listed below.
Locations of Service: Republic of the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He received the 2009 National Society of Black Engineers Golden Torch Legacy Award-First Honoree.

His Medals includes: American Theater Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are many African American veterans who broke the color barriers in the U.S. Military. To bad you will never read about them!