Monday, February 25, 2013

SLCC Celebrates Black History Month: Carl Maxie Brashear & David N. Dinkins

Carl Maxie Brashear was the first African-American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver. Born in Tonieville, Kentucky, the sixth of eight children to sharecroppers McDonald and Gonzella, Brashear attended Sonora Grade School before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954, becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School.

Brashear first did work as a diver retrieving approximately 16,000 rounds of ammunition. On his first tour of shore duty in Quonset Point, Rhode Island his duties included salvaging airplanes and recovering dead bodies.

Early in his career, Brashear’s duties included escorting U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the presidential ship Barbara Ann.

In 1966, Brashear was involved in the accident that has come to be known as the Palomares incident. A B28 nuclear bomb was lost off the coast of Palomares, Spain when two U.S. Air Force aircraft collided during aerial refueling. Brashear was then serving aboard the USS Hoist, which was dispatched to find and recover the missing bomb.

After a search that took several months, the warhead was found. Brashear’s left leg was injured when a line broke during the recovery effort. He was evacuated to Torrejon Air Base in Spain, then to the USAF Hospital at Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, and to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. His leg was eventually amputated due to the injuries caused in recovering the warhead.

Following his amputation and convalescence, Brashear was assigned to the Harbor Clearance Unit Two, Diving School, preparing for return to full active duty and diving. In April 1968, Brashear was the first amputee diver to be certified as a U.S. Navy diver. In 1970, he became the first African-American U.S. Navy Master Diver.

Brashear retired from the U.S. Navy as a Master Chief Petty Officer and Master Diver. Following his retirement, he served as a civilian employee for the government at Naval Station Norfolk until his retirement in 1993.

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen presented Brashear with the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 2000.

In 2007, the Newport News Fire Department dedicated a fireboat named Carl Brashear to be used by their Dive and Marine Incident Response Teams.

The following year, the U.S. Naval Service christened the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Carl Brashear in his honor.

In 2009, Nauticus—a Norfolk, Virginia science and maritime museum—opened the exhibit "Dream to Dive: The Life of Master Diver Carl Brashear".

His life story is dramatized in the 2000 motion picture Men of Honor; actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. portraysBrashear in the film.

Following his death in 2006, his sons DaWayne and Phillip Brashear started the Carl Brashear Foundation in his honor.David N. Dinkins served as the 106th Mayor of New York City from 1990 to 1993. He was the first and only African-American to hold that office.

David Dinkins

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins moved with his father to Harlem as a child. He returned to Trenton and attended Trenton Central High School, graduating in the top 10 percent of his class in 1945. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and trained at Camp Montford Point.

Following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 8802—which barred government agencies and federal contractors from refusing employment in industries engaged  in defense production on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin—Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina trained the first African-American marines beginning in 1942. Between 1942 and 1949 more than 20,000 African-American men trained at Montford Point. In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, mandating the U.S. Military be desegregated. This order led to the deactivation of Montford Point in 1949. After Montford's deactivation, new African-American recruits were sent to Parris Island and Camp Pendleton. During the Korean War, the United States Marine Corps was fully integrated.

Dinkins served in the Marine Corps from 1945 through 1946.

After his military career, Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party and served briefly in the New York State Legislature. Dinkins was named Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was never appointed. He defeated three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch in the Democratic primary and Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani in the general election to be elected Mayor of New York City on November 7, 1989.

Dinkins is currently Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He graduated magna cum laude from Howard University with a degree in mathematics. He later graduated from Brooklyn Law School.