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African-Americans in the U.S. Coast Guard

A Historic Photo Gallery



A photo of Captain Michael Healy.

Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy, USRCS

Captain Healy was the first commissioned African-American officer of the United States Government and the first to command a U.S. warship. 

No official caption/photo number/date; probably 1890s.



A photo of the crew of the Pea Island Station.

Captain Richard Etheridge, USLSS

Captain Richard Etheridge and his Pea Island Life-Saving Station crew in 1896.  Etheridge was the first African-American keeper of a U.S. Life-Saving Station and he commanded the only all African-American crew in the U.S.   Etheridge is on the far left.

No official caption/photo number/date; probably 1896.



Pea Island crew

Pea Island Crew, 1928

Original caption: "The only all-colored surf station crew in the U.S. Coast Guard.  Reading left to right, they are: Chief Boatswain's Mate George E. Pruden, in charge; Cleon C. Tillett, B.M.1c.; Maxie M. Berry, Lonnie C. [Gray], Norphlet P. Meekins, John A. Mackey and Maloyd L. Scarborough."  Photo  published in the
U. S. Coast Guard magazine, Volume 2, No. 2, December, 1928, p. 24.



A photo of the CGC Yocona

USCGC Yocona

Original caption reads: "USS Yocona, CG, stern-wheeler at Vicksburg, 1925.  E. Zoole, LTjg, Commanding."; no photo number; photo by "Moore."

The officers and crew of the CGC Yocona at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1925.  Her commanding officer, LTJG E. Zoole, USCG, is seated on the far left of the first row.  Note the number of African-Americans among the crew.


 

A photo of two African American Coast Guardsmen.

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joseph C. Jenkins, USCGR
Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Clarence Samuels, USCGR

LTJG Joseph C. Jenkins (left) and LTJG Clarence Samuels (right) on board the USS Sea Cloud, CG, in 1943.  They were the first African-American Coast Guard officers--a full year before the US Navy commissioned any African-Americans.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of the cutter Sea Cloud.

USS Sea Cloud, CG

The Sea Cloud was the first U.S. warship that was fully integrated--an experiment conducted during World War II to determine the feasibility of integrating crews.  The experiment proved to be successful.  

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of the Pea Island Coast Guard station.

Coast Guard Lifeboat Station Pea Island, North Carolina

Coast Guard Station Pea Island as it appeared during World War II.  This station was manned entirely by African-Americans.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Petty Officer First Class First Class Maxie Berry, Sr., USCG

Chief Boatswain's Mate Maxie Berry, Sr., USCG, was the Officer in Charge of the historic Pea Island Station, NC, in the early 1940's.  BMC Berry was one of 22 members of his family that have served their country in the U.S. Life-Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard.  Berry's father, Joseph H. Berry, joined the Life-Saving Service in 1902.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Petty Officer First Class First Class Maxie Berry, Sr., USCG

BM 1/c Maxie Berry, Sr., USCG, the Officer in Charge of the historic Pea Island Station, uses a speaking trumpet during a training exercise at Pea Island Station in the early 1940's.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Petty Officer First Class Maxie Berry, Sr., USCG

BM1c Maxie Berry, Sr., Officer in Charge of the historic Pea Island Station, scans the seas near the Pea Island Station in the early 1940's.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Surfman Fleetwood M. Dunston, USCG

Surfman Fleetwood M. Dunston of the Pea Island Coast Guard Station signals "Aid is Coming" during a training exercise.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Surfman Ruben Gallop, USCG

Surfman Ruben Gallop patrols the beach at the Pea Island Lifeboat Station during World War II.  Note the flashlight he is carrying for signaling.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Surfman Lonnie C. Gray, USCG 

Surfman Lonnie C. Gray of the Pea Island Station pulls at an oar in the station's surfboat.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of BM1c Lonnie Gray

Petty Officer First Class Lonnie C. Gray, USCG 

Original caption reads: "Blinking signals from the Lookout Tower at Pea Island identify friendly craft.  Lonnie C. Gray, B.M. 1c is shown on the alert."  

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of Coast Guardsman Herbert Collins

Surfman Herbert M. Collins, USCG

Surfman Herbert M. Collins, a member of the Pea Island Lifesaving crew who served there during World War II.

Courtesy of his daughter, Ms. Joan Collins.



A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Coast Guard Lifeboat Station Pea Island Crew

High-Resolution pdf copy pdf file icon

Left to Right: BM1/c Maxie Berry; Surfman Lonnie C. Gray; Surfman Ruben Gallop; unidentified (Surfman Fleetwood M. Dunston?); Surfman Herbert M. Collins.

No photo number/date; probably 1942.


 

A photo of Coast Guardsman Herbert Collins

Surfman Herbert M. Collins, USCG

A portrait of Surfman Herbert M. Collins, a member of the Pea Island Lifesaving crew who served there during World War II.

Courtesy of his daughter, Ms. Joan Collins.


 

A photo of Pea Island Lifeboat Station crew and surfboat

Coast Guard Lifeboat Station Pea Island Crew

Official caption reads: "Coast Guard crew making ready their surfboat at the all-Negro Coast Guard Lifeboat Station at Pea Island, N.C."

No date/photo number; photographer unknown.  Probably 1942.


 

A photo of Lifeboat Station Tiana

Chief Petty Officer Cecil B. Foster, USCG

CBM Cecil B. Foster, O.I.C. of Coast Guard Lifeboat Station Tiana from 1942-1944. 

Photo courtesy of Mr. Kenneth Sutherland.


 

A photo of Tiana lifeboat station

Coast Guard Lifeboat Station Tiana

Coast Guard Lifeboat Station Tiana, circa 1943.  This station was manned by an African-American crew during World War II.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Kenneth Sutherland.



A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

1943 World War II honor guard for RADM L.T. Shaller, the Assistant Commandant, during the celebration of the Coast Guard's 153rd Anniversary, in Boston.

No photo number; photographer unknown; dated 1943.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Chief Warrant Officer Oliver T. Henry, USCG

CWO Oliver T. Henry, USCG, through his relentless pursuit to serve the Coast Guard as a skilled petty officer on board the USCGC Northland during World War II, successfully moved from the wardroom as a steward to the engine-room as a motor-machinist's mate, one of the first (if not the first) African-Americans to do so.

No photo number/date; photographer unknown.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Alexander Palmer Haley, USCG

Alex Haley had a path-breaking career in the Coast Guard and became a world- renowned author.

No official caption/photo number/date; photographer unknown.


 

A photo of Charles David

Petty Officer First Class Charles Walter David, Jr., USCG

Stewardsmate First Class Charles Walter David, Jr., was an African American Coast Guardsman who served on board the cutter Comanche during World War II.  When the Comanche came to the aid of the survivors of the torpedoed transport Dorchester in the cold waters off Greenland, David volunteered to dive overboard to help rescue those in need--practicing the newly devised "rescue retriever" technique.  David repeatedly dived overboard in the frigid water to save several men.  He even saved the life of the Comanche's executive officer, LT Robert W. Anderson, who was also attempting to save survivors, when Anderson became unable to pull himself out of the water due to exposure.  David died a few days later from hypothermia contracted during his heroic efforts to save the stricken survivors of the Dorchester and LT Anderson.  He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his bravery. 

No official caption; photo number/date; photographer unknown.  
Photo was part of his personnel jacket now at the National Archives.


 

A photo of the first two African-American female SPARs

Julie Mosley, USCGR (W)
D. Winifred Byrd, USCGR (W)

SPAR recruits Julie Mosley (on the left); D. Winifred Byrd (on the right). 
They were the first African-American women in the Coast Guard.  They were soon joined by Aileen a. Cooke, Olivia Hooker, and Yvonne Cumberbatch.

No official caption/photo number/date; photographer unknown.


 

A photo of an African American Coast Guardsman.

Petty Officer First Class James McDaniel, USCGR

"Coast Guardsman James McDaniel of Roselle, N.J., steward's mate first class, who has filled his post as loader in a 20-millimeter gun crew aboard an attack transport during three invasions in the South Pacific."
Photo and accompanying caption were printed in the 22 January 1944 issue of Baltimore's The Afro-American, page. 3.

No official photo number/date; photographer unknown.



A photo of African American Coast Guardsmen during World War II

A 20mm gun crew, partially manned by African-American Coast Guardsmen, fires on enemy aircraft during World War II.

No official caption/photo number/date; photographer unknown.


 

An African American Coast Guardsman is awarded a Purple Heart during World War II

Petty Officer First Class Clarence W. Dabney, USCGR

"Clarence W. Dabney, Ship's Cook first class, Atlanta, presented with a Purple Heart for wounds inflicted on board a Coast Guard manned LST in Southwest Pacific.  Lt. Cmdr. W. H. Maybaum, Commanding Officer, makes the presentation.  Two of his shipmates were killed when [Japanese] bombers dropped their 'eggs.'"

No official photo number/date; photographer unknown.


Captain Bobby C. Wilks, USCG

Captain Bobby Charles Wilks, USCG

Bobby Charles Wilks, the Coast Guard's first African-American aviator, entered the Coast Guard in 1955 and retired after a distinguished career in 1986 with over 6,000 flight hours in 21 different types of aircraft.  During his career he established a number of other "firsts", including: first African-American Coast Guardsman to make the rank of Captain & the first African-American Coast Guardsman to command an Air Station.  Another of his important contributions to the Coast Guard was his service as a mentor for younger African-American Coast Guardsmen.


A photo of the retirement ceremony of Senior Chief James Parks, USCG

Senior Chief James W. Parks, USCG

James W. Parks (seen in the photo above during his retirement ceremony) became the first African-American Gunner's Mate in the Coast Guard when he made GM3/c on 16 April 1949.  He became the first Coast Guard African-American Chief Gunner's Mate when he was promoted to GMC on 1 November 1956 and the first African-American Senior Chief Gunner's Mate on 1 April 1965.  He retired from the Coast Guard after twenty years honorable service in 1967.

Courtesy of his son, Brian Green.



Ensign Merle Smith with his father during Commencement exercises in 1966.

Ensign Merle J. Smith, Jr., USCG

Ensign Merle J. Smith, Jr. (left) is congratulated by his father, Colonel Merle J. Smith, Sr., AUS (right) upon his graduation from the Coast Guard Academy in 1966.  Admiral Willard J. Smith, Commandant, is in background.  Ensign Smith was the first African-American graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

 

A recruiting photo from the 1970s

A recruiting photo from the early 1970s.

No official caption/photo number/date; photographer unknown.


 

A portrait of Herbert Collins

Lieutenant Herbert M. Collins, USCG

A portrait of LT Herbert M. Collins, USCG (Ret.), the last living veteran of Pea Island.  LT Collins was a cousin of the Berrys, also of Pea Island fame.

Courtesy of his daughter, Ms. Joan Collins.


 

A photo of Herbert Collins, Max Berry and Oscar Barry

Lieutenant Maxie M. Berry, USCG
Chief Petty Officer Oscar Berry, USCG
Lieutenant Herbert M. Collins, USCG

LT Herbert M. Collins (far right) walks with two of the Berrys: on the far left is LT Maxie M. Berry and in the center is ENC Oscar Berry.

Courtesy of the daughter of LT Collins, Ms. Joan Collins.


CMC Stephen Spencer

Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Spencer, USCG

MCPO Stephen Spencer became the first African-American Command Master Chief in 1991.


 

A photo of MCPOCG Vincent Patton

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Vincent Patton III, USCG

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard [MCPOCG], Vincent Patton III, was the first African-American MCPOCG of the Coast Guard.  He was appointed in 1998 and served until his retirement in 2002.  The MCPOCG served as the Commandant's personnel advisor and assistant in matters affecting the enlisted members of the Coast Guard, both active and reserve, and their families. The MCPOCG is the most senior enlisted member of the Coast Guard, with the pay grade designation of E-10.



A photo of LTJG Jeanine McIntosh, USCG

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Jeanine McIntosh, USCG

On 24 June 2005 LTJG Jeanine McIntosh was awarded her wings at a ceremony at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, after completing her flight training there.  She is the first African-American female Coast Guard aviator.  


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Last Modified 11/17/2014