Tag Archives: Black History

Hero Milton Olive III

Hero Milton Olive III

November 7, 1946 – October 22, 1965

Milton L. Olive III and fellow members of the 3rd Platoon of Company B had been making their way through the jungles to locate Viet Cong operating in the area. As the soldiers pursued the enemy, a grenade was thrown into the middle of them. Olive grabbed the grenade and fell on it, absorbing the blast with his body.

Hero Milton Olive III

18 years old

His actions saved the lives of his platoon members. President Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Olive’s parents on his behalf on April 21, 1966.

Milton L. Olive III was the first African-American Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War. There would be an additional twenty-one African-Americans recipients. (There were 259 total.)

Hero Milton Olive III
President Lyndon Johnson presents Medal of Honor, posthumously, to parents of
PFC Milton L. Olive, III for his act of gallantry in Vietnam.”
Source: Department of Defense
Hero Milton Olive III

Citation

The citation read: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Olive was a member of the 3d Platoon of Company B, as it moved through the jungle to find the Viet Cong operating in the area. Although the platoon was subjected to a heavy volume of enemy gunfire and pinned down temporarily, it retaliated by assaulting the Viet Cong positions, causing the enemy to flee. As the platoon pursued the insurgents, Pfc. Olive and 4 other soldiers were moving through the jungle together with a grenade was thrown into their midst. Pfc. Olive saw the grenade, and then saved the lives of his fellow soldiers at the sacrifice of his by grabbing the grenade in his hand and falling on it to absorb the blast with his body. Through his bravery, unhesitating actions, and complete disregard for his safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon. Pfc. Olive’s extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

Hero Milton Olive III

LBJ’s words

Below is a link to a sound file with President Lyndon B Johnson’s remarks at the ceremony. He began those remarks with the following words:

Mr. and Mrs. Olive, members of the Olive family, distinguished Mayor Daley, Secretary Resor, General Wheeler, Members of the Senate, Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen.

There are occasions on which we take great pride, but little pleasure. This is one such occasion. Words can never enlarge upon acts of heroism and duty, but this Nation will never forget Milton Lee Olive III.

President Harry Truman once said that he would far rather have won the Medal of Honor than to have been the President of the United States. I know what he meant. Those who have earned this decoration are very few in number. But true courage is very rare. This honor we reserve for the most courageous of all of our sons.

The Medal of Honor is awarded for acts of heroism above and beyond the call of duty. It is bestowed for courage demonstrated not in blindly overlooking danger, but in meeting it with eyes clearly open.

And that is what Private Olive did. When the enemy’s grenade landed on that jungle trail, it was not merely duty which drove this young man to throw himself upon it, sacrificing his own life that his comrades might continue to live. He was compelled by something that’s more than duty, by something greater than a blind reaction to forces that are beyond his control.

Hero Milton Olive III

Milton L Olive III

The video of the narration/music at top of this entry

Hero Milton Olive III
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Passion of Muhammad Ali

Passion of Muhammad Ali

George Lois, Esquire magazine, and Muhammad Ali
Passion of Muhammad Ali
Passion of Muhammad Ali cover by George Lois

On January 24, 1964 Clay took an Army evaluation test for the draft. On March 3, after having defeating Sonny Liston on February 25 and winning the world heavyweight championship,  The Louisville Courier‐Journal published a story that Clay had failed by a slight margin to pass the psychological portions of that evaluation test.

Clay, commenting on the report, said, “Do they think I’m crazy?”

On March 13, Clay, now Muhammad Ali, took a second test and on March 20, the Department issued the following statement about Ali’s draft status: “The Department of the Army has completed a review of Cassius Clay’s second pre-induction examination and has determined he is not qualified for induction into the Army under applicable standards.”

Ali’s response was, “I just said I’m the greatest. I never said I was the smartest.

Passion of Muhammad Ali

Joe Namath

On September 15, 1965 Joe Namath took his Army physical and on December 9 that year the Army classified Namath 4-F, ineligible to be drafted. It was determined that Namath’s knees were in too poor condition for the Army to take care of, though the National Football League and Namath found that Namath’s knees were fine to play.

Passion of Muhammad Ali

Reclassified

On February 12, 1966,the Louisville, KY draft board re-classified Muhammad Ali as 1-A. Ali challenged the re-classification as politically motivated and questioned why other athletes, such as Namath, quarterback for the NY Jets, weren’t being drafted as well.

On April 17, 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court barred Muhammad Ali’s request to be blocked from induction into the U.S. Army and on April 28, the US Justice Department denied Ali’s claim. The Department found that his objections were political, not religious. Ali reported for induction ceremony, but refused to step forward when called.

Passion of Muhammad Ali

Guilty

On June 20, 1967 Ali was found guilty of refusing induction into the armed forces. He was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000—the maximum penalties. He was stripped of his title by the boxing association and effectively banned from boxing.

Passion of Muhammad Ali

Esquire cover

Nine months later, George Lois’s cover picture of Ali on Esquire magazine’s April 1968 edition portrayed him as a martyr akin to St Sebastian. Kurt Andersen, host of NPR’s Studio 360, stated that “George Lois’s covers for Esquire in the 60s are classic. His April 1968 image of Muhammad Ali to dramatize the boxer’s persecution for his personal beliefs, is the greatest magazine cover ever created, making a political statement without being grim or stupid or predicable.”

Ali’s legal fight continued until June 28, 1971 when the Supreme Court reversed Muhammad Ali’s conviction for refusing induction by unanimous decision in Clay v. United States.

Passion of Muhammad Ali

Reclaims title

MORE THAN THREE years later, on October 30, 1974 Ali fought the reigning champion George Foreman in an outdoor arena in Kinshasa, Zaire, The fight is known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  Using his novel “rope-a-dope” strategy, Ali defeated Foreman and after seven years, reclaimed the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Passion of Muhammad Ali
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Activist Jackie Robinson

Activist Jackie Robinson

Activist Jackie Robinson

Major league baseball has begun and today marks an important date in its history.  On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African-American in the major leagues when he played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The common date for major league baseball’s beginning is April 22, 1876, thus it had been 71 years that major league baseball was segregated.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Jack Roosevelt Robinson

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia.

Robinson’s older brother, Matthew won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash—just behind Jesse Owens—at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Activist Jackie Robinson

College

Jackie attended  Pasadena Junior College and played four sports: football, basketball, track, and baseball. In 1938 he was named the region’s Most Valuable Player in baseball.

From Pasadena, Robinson went to UCLA. He was the first student there to letter in four sports. (read about him scoring against Oregon in 1939 >>> Robinson scores for UCLA)

Financial difficulties forced him to leave UCLA in 1941.

Activist Jackie Robinson

World War II

He briefly played semi-professional football in Hawaii, but the US entry into World War II ended that stint.

In 1942, Robinson was drafted. He was qualified for and applied to Officer Candidate School (OCS). Technically OCS was race-neutral, but in reality few Black applicants were ever accepted.   There was a long delay and only after protests and outside help were Robinson and other qualified Black applicants accepted.

Robinson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 1943.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Military discrimination

On July 6, 1944, he boarded an Army bus. Technically it was not segregated, but like the OCS, in reality it was. The bus driver ordered Robinson to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused and remained in his selected seat.

Military police took Robinson into custody. A court-martial was threatened, he was charged with drunkenness (Robinson didn’t drink), and was the subject of racist interrogation.

By the time of the court-martial in August 1944, the charges against Robinson had been reduced to two counts of insubordination during questioning and he was acquitted by an all-white panel of nine officers.

While serving out the rest of his time at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky [as a coach for army athletics], Robinson met a former player for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. The player encouraged Robinson to write the Monarchs and ask for a tryout. Robinson did and in early 1945 [after Robinson had received an honorable discharge in November 1944] the Monarchs sent a offer to Robinson.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Kansas City Monarchs

While with the Monarchs in April that season he attended a try-out for the Boston Red Sox, but even with only management in the stands he was the subject of racial epithets. (>>> 1945-04-17 try out)  [It wouldn’t be until July 1959 that the Red Sox integrated its roster–the last team to do so.]

Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, began to scout the Negro leagues. On August 28, 1945, Rickey  and Robinson met. Rickey’s main concern was that Robinson would not take the bait when insulted by fan and, likely, by players. 

Activist Jackie Robinson

Montreal Royals

On April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson debuted with the Montreal Royals. In five at-bats he hit a three-run homer and three singles, stole two bases, and scored four times, twice by forcing the pitcher to balk.

It still took the Dodgers a year before they brought him up to the majors.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Brooklyn Dodgers

That April 15, 1947, Robinson, already 28 years old, did not duplicate that first day with the Royals.  He failed to get a base hit, but walked once,  and scored a run in the Dodgers’ 5–3 victory.

Jackie Robinson faced challenges both from other teams and his own. At one point, manager Leo Durocher warned the team “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.”

The St. Louis Cardinals, threatened to strike if Robinson played. A high slide gave him a seven-inch gash in his leg. Philadelphia Phillies players and their manager Ben Chapman called Robinson a “nigger” from their dugout.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Rookie of the Year

Activist Jackie Robinson

Despite those experiences and others like them, Robinson’s year was a great one. He earned him the inaugural Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award. 

He played for 10 years and his career statistics earned him entrance into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962 [Baseball Ref dot com]

  • He was an All-Star six times
  • He was the MVP in 1948
  • He had a career batting average of 311
Activist Jackie Robinson

Retirement , Hall of Fame, and Early Death

Activist Jackie Robinson

Robinson retired from baseball at age 37 on January 5, 1957 and continued to be a civil rights activist, albeit a conservative one at times, with the NAACP, a voice for black in politics both nationally and locally.

In 1962, his first year of eligibility, he was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first black person to be inducted.

He was an analyst for ABC’s Baseball Game of the Week in 1965, and in 1966 he became the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a Continental Football League team. 

In 1972 he was a part-time analyst for the Montreal Expos.

Complications from heart disease and diabetes weakened Robinson and made him almost blind by middle age.  He died on October 24, 1972 of a heart attack at his home on in North Stamford, Connecticut; he was 53 years old.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Continued Cultural Ignorance

On August 6, 1987, 40 years after Jackie Robinson was finally given the chance to play baseball, ABC network Nightline anchorman Ted Koppel asked Al Campanis, who had played alongside Robinson and was the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the time, why  there had been few black managers and no black general managers in Major League Baseball.

Campanis’s reply was that blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager” for these positions. Elsewhere in the interview he said that blacks are often poor swimmers “because they don’t have the buoyancy.”

A protest erupted and he resigned two days later.

Activist Jackie Robinson

Legacy

In 1997, Major League Baseball retired his uniform number 42 across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.  The MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day”, for the first time on April 15, 2004, on which every player on every team wears No. 42.

The main aim of today’s blog entry is to point out the importance of today’s date for baseball, for Jackie Robinson, and for us as Americans.

Decades after Capanis’s ignorant remark, we are still too often surrounded by racist statements by those who should have learned their history better.

Activist Jackie Robinson
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