Darryl Williams Becomes West Point’s First Black Superintendent

A milestone for the nation's oldest service academy, founded in 1802.


AP (“West Point gets 1st black superintendent in 216-year history“):

Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, a 1983 U.S. Military Academy graduate who has held high-ranking Army posts in Europe and Asia, will become the first black officer to command West Point in its 216-year history, academy officials announced Friday.

Williams will assume command as the academy’s 60th superintendent during a ceremony Monday morning in West Point’s Jefferson Hall, school officials said.

The native of Alexandria, Virginia, has served as the deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Army in Europe and the deputy commanding general for support for the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea. Most recently Williams was commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command, based in Turkey.

West Point, founded in 1802 along the west bank of the Hudson River 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City, didn’t graduate its first black cadet until the Reconstruction era in 1877. No black cadet had graduated in the 20th century when Benjamin O. Davis Jr. arrived in there in 1932.

Davis ate alone, roomed alone and was shunned by fellow cadets because he was black. After graduating in 1936, he went on to command the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and retired as an Air Force general in 1970. West Point recently named its newest cadet barracks for Davis.

The announcement of Williams’ appointment comes less than a year after an African-American cadet and Rhodes Scholar was selected to take the top position in West Point’s cadet chain of command. Simone Askew, of Fairfax, Virginia, was selected first captain of the Corps of Cadets last summer and graduated in May.

While this milestone is noteworthy, we’re finally at the point where it’s unremarkable. While I’m old enough to remember when Daniel “Chappie” James became American’s first black four-star general in 1978, generations of officers have come and gone since then. Indeed, Williams was still in junior high when that happened. And Colin Powell became the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1989 when Williams was a young captain.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The fact that this is, as you say, unremarkable given the culture of military and the fact that African-American General officers have reached positions as high as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is perhaps what makes it significant.

    We’ve come a long way since Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981.

  2. TM01 says:

    Since this is happening under a Republican President, do we get to call him Uncle Tom or Token?

  3. de stijl says:

    @TM01:

    Good lord, do you not realize how tone-deaf and alienating you are?

    Not everything is a cudgel.

    Just pretend to be a decent person for 24 hours. Some of it may stick.

    Being shitty all of the time must be exhausting. Take a break for a day and just relax and breathe and look at trees and ducks or butterflies or whatever. Take one day when you are not aggressively incitefully annoying. Listen to chill music (I can hook you up). Try not to be assertively dickish for one solid day.

  4. de stijl says:

    I like the fact that Lt. Gen. William’s command is little news. The next black man or woman to hold the post probably will never show up on the front page and that is how it should be.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Brother, you nailed it. When Truman issued that order we became true (truer) to our founding documents. The 14th Amendment was being marginally enforced under federal law, and many states simply ignored it. Integration and desegregation of the armed forces was a key moment in our history that was decided in the right.

    1964 could not have happened unless Truman signed EO 9981.

  5. de stijl says:

    @de stijl: .
    .
    A long time ago, I studied linguistics. Nothing of this:

    Listen to chill music (I can hook you up).

    would have been immediately understandable then.

    “Chill” was not a widely used adjective then as in modern usage. “Hook you up” as a verb phrase would be entirely novel usage then. We don’t realize it, but our language changes all of the time right in front of our ears.