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  • I arrived in Little Rock Arkansas in September of 1957.

    I was part of the 327 Airborne Battle Group who arrived to assist in quelling the violence and enforce the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court Decision. 100 white Congressmen stated that the decision would never be implemented.

    When we arrived, we were excited, afraid and really did not know what to expect. My platoon Sgt. Stood at the back of the truck and stated: Whites soldiers get off and the Negros stay on the truck. He was essentially was telling us, telling the Negro soldiers that we were not going to participate in protecting the students. We were angry and felt that our Army had let us down and prevented us from fighting for a cause that affected us.

    All of the Black soldiers were driven to an old National Guard Camp. After we arrived and it really started to dawn on us as to what had happened we were more angry and upset and started to make irrational decisions. We decided that this was our fight and we were going to march into Little Rock Central High School and protect our black students.

    I stood up on an old barrel and took a stand that it would be suicidal to go into this little town without ammunition. We would be shot down like dogs because the individuals had shot guns, pistols and rifles and would use them against us. Common sense prevailed.

    By deciding not to make that trip into Little Rock was probably the most important contribution we made to the integration of Central High School in Little Rock. Has we gone in, the focus would have shifted from the school and the integration onto the black soldiers fighting with the white residents.

    I returned for the 50 year celebration of the Little Rock Nine in September of 2007. It was a lot different. Everybody who was somebody was in attendance, at least three former Governors, both United States Senators, congressmen and former congressmen were present. Many Civil rights advocates including President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton were there. It was a 180 degree difference from the last I was there. This time, everyone was championing the Little Rock Nine rather than trying to keep them out of the High School.

    Incidentally, many of the Little Rock Nine did not know that black soldiers were present in Little Rock 50 years ago. They were delighted to know that we were there.

    That experience inspired me to become an advocate for Civil and Human Rights for all people. I have continued to assist individual and underprivileged groups in standing up for their rights.

    I returned to my community and completed my education because I learned the importance and value of education. I subsequently became the youngest member elected to the Presidency of Local Union 1173, UAW in Buffalo, New York. I served for 12 years as a Federal Mediator and was Chairman of the New York State Mediation Board and a Member of Governor Mario Cuomo Cabinet.

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