Chapter 7 – Annapolis Climate and Culture
It would have been impossible to predict what would happen during the next four years. I will share with you an insider’s look and description entirely different from the scenes in the movie “Annapolis.” Honestly, this film was nothing like being a midshipman at Annapolis since it only focused upon only the Brigade boxing championship. Being a black midshipman at Annapolis for during 1972-1976 presented many different challenges. Annapolis had its own philosophy, climate, and culture. Make no mistake: my four years at Annapolis were very challenging, firmly structured, and designed to drive myself well beyond my perceived limits.
There were no women at the Naval Academy in 1972. In my senior year, the 17th Company controlled the Class President, the Color Company, the Brigade Honor Chairman, and the Brigade Commander during the Color Parade (1976- Chris Ames). The Captain Donald K. Forbes was the Commandant from 1973-1976. The Superintendent was VADM William P. Mack (1937) and VADM Kinnaird R. McKee (1951).
There were five black midshipmen in the 17th Company class of 1976 in the summer of 1972. As a midshipman, there were three pathways for a dismissal including failure to maintain a 2.00 GPA, accumulation of more than 300 demerits for disciplinary actions, and an honor violation. A midshipman does not lie, steal, or cheat under the honor code. No one from......
June 1976 - Color parade rehearsal
During the next 21 days I will provide bits and pieces from Annapolis Creed
Chapter 1 - African American Pioneers
Pioneers are the first to struggle and persevere to provide a pathway for others to follow and achieve. Henry Ossian Flipper was a former slave who was the first African-American to graduate from West Point, the United States Military Academy in 1877. He earned a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army. .....
The United States Naval Academy began operations in 1845 at Fort Severn, and the first superintendents were slave owners and mostly southern gentlemen (Schneller, 2005). Robert Schneller has written several books about blacks at Annapolis. In 2005 he wrote The First Black Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. This article recounted the events that followed when James Henry Conyers entered the Naval Academy on September 21, 1872. Mr. Conyers suffered tremendous harassment from everyone including all his white classmates (plebes). He was allowed to resign after completing one year on November 10, 1873, after failing to score sufficiently after the second time in algebra, geometry, and French. No one has heard anything about Mr. Conyers after leaving Annapolis (Schneller, 2005). “Only five black men were admitted to the United States Naval Academy between Reconstruction and the beginning of World War II (Schneller, 2005). None graduated, and all were deeply scarred by intense racial discrimination, ranging from brutal hazing incidents to the institutionalized racist policies of the Academy itself.” (Schneller, 2008). This slave mindset for over 100 years prevented racial integration, and so it took 104 years to get the first black graduate of the Naval Academy.........
In the spring of 1976, Chuck Riddick became the first African-American brigade commander in the honor set. It was a typical Naval Academy dress parade with 4300 midshipmen marched in precision in the Annapolis Spring weather. However, the man who gave the "pass in review" order was not typical. Mason C. (Chuck), Reddick, was the first black Brigade Commander, in the Naval Academy's 131-year history. It was just as important was the fact that 400 other minority midshipmen, 200 of them black, in all classes and at all ranks were scattered throughout the rest of the brigade (All Hands, 1976). It was quite a change from the situation just six years ago. Derwood Curtis was the second regimental commander and would have been the brigade commander except that Reddick had higher grades (Schneider, 2008). In the spring of 1976, Derwood Curtis became the Second Regimental Commander, and I became one of the few to become a company commander and the first African American chosen to be the Color Company Commander in June 1976 (Schneller, 2008). Mathematics and the ability to learn a foreign language were the determining factors preventing blacks from entering and graduating from the Naval Academy. Between 1949 and 1972 only a handful of Blacks would enter the Naval Academy and mostly because of football. In 1972 many more would join the Academy, but few would graduate because of mathematics and computer science.
Thinking back I realize that I had to overcome three obstacles:
1. Be appointed to the Naval Academy in 1972.
2. Become one of 108 company commanders in his senior year (few blacks had achieved this task) in 131 years.
3. BE in the company finishing first out of thirty-six other companies.
4. BE selected over the other two company commanders in the 17th Company.
I had a dream and a vision. I was on a mission and devised a plan. I had a belief in myself and a destiny to complete.
Forerunners require vision, confidence, and extraordinary belief in their abilities.
Dr. Jordan B smith jr.
I attended the U. S. Naval Academy from 1972-1976 earning a B.S. in Mathematics. Served 20 years both active and reserve in the US Marines. Veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm. I earned a MAED and Ed D. specializing in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix in 2015. I graduated from CBC High School in Clayton, MO in 1972.