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No longer an 'invisible man': West Point to name new $186million barracks after black graduate who was shunned and bullied by the entire university... but went on to become the first black general.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the only black cadet at the academy in 1932
He had no roommates or friends and was rarely even spoken to
But Davis became one of the academy's most accomplished graduates
He commanded the all-black Tuskegee Airmen during World War II
Davis retired a three-star general in 1970, was awarded a fourth in 1998
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the only black cadet when he entered West Point in 1932.
Davis spent his four years at the military academy shunned, with no roommates or friends, in an experience he later said made him feel like 'an invisible man'.
Now the university wants to honor the man who went on to become one of its most accomplished graduates by naming a new $186m cadet barracks after Davis. Previous graduates who have received the rare privilege include President Dwight D. Eisenhower and five-star general Douglas MacArthur.
But Davis proved he was much more than an 'invisible man' long before this honor came along.
Davis, who passed away in 2002 at age 89, became the first black general of the Air Force.
He commanded the all-black 332nd Fighter group, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen and the Red Tails, during World War II.
They were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces.
Davis retired as a three-star general in 1970 and was awarded a fourth star in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.
Col. Ty Seidule, the head of West Point's history department and a head of the naming committee, said Davis is the 'epitome of what we want at a time when we didn't know what "right" looked like'.
'If you want to know what "Duty, Honor, Country" look like, just read a little bit about Benjamin O. Davis Jr.' he said, calling Davis one of the school's 'greatest graduates'.
The first black cadet graduated from West Point as Reconstruction neared its end in 1877.
But by the time Davis showed up in 1932, not a single black cadet had graduated from the academy in the twentieth century. In his 1991 autobiography, Davis wrote that he was 'silenced' because 'the cadets did not want blacks at West Point'.
'Silencing' is a coordinated shunning that is usually reserved for cadets who violate West Point's honor code.
Davis was rarely spoken to by fellow cadets. He was told mess hall tables with empty places were too full for him to sit at.
He said the West Point administrators knew 'precisely how I was being treated'.
'Their only purpose was to freeze me out,' Davis wrote of the cadets. 'What they did not realize was that I was stubborn enough to put up with their treatment to reach the goal I had come to obtain.'
And Davis did exactly that, graduating 35th in a class of 276.
In the end, his steely tenacity won respect from the very cadets who made his four years so difficult, his yearbook entry noting that he earned 'the sincere admiration of his classmates'. Davis' perseverance throughout those four years was a lesson he took with him as he continued to face racism during his military career.
Needham Jones, 96, who has served under Davis, said he once told the men 'it was not going to be easy, because we had not been accepted as full citizens of the United States'.
But, Jones said, Davis told them they could not allow such treatment to get to them.
'He said, "Don't let nobody tell you - don't you never believe - that you are inferior to anybody else."'
Jones said those words meant 'a hell of a lot' to the group.
The Davis Barracks is set to open in January 2017.
It will rise six stories, house 650 cadets and have a granite exterior to match the Cadet Chapel looming on a hillside above.
The extra space will alleviate some crowding and allow West Point to shift around cadets as they modernize each of the current eight barracks. Seidule said the credit for honoring Davis does not fall to the university, but on the man himself.
'This is not West Point at its finest hour,' he said. 'This is a chance for West Point to recognize one of its finest.'
Story Source: MailOnline News
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