My father was from Jasper County Mississippi, the closest town was Bay Springs. Though he talked about it frequently he never took the family there during vacations, a visit I now believe would not have been a vacation for him. I believe he had no desire to show his children that life. He was as far away from agriculture and sweat and the tension associated with that life. Though it may have been different in reality, in our minds the southern United States was not a place where black people wanted to vacation. Images of southern racial issues were all too common in the 1970’s.
My father, as many others after WWII migrated north to the lucrative cities, were he took a job in one of the many automobile affiliated factories in Detroit, Michigan. He basically went from the segregated New Deal era Civilian Conservation Corps, to the segregated United States Army, to the racial and cultural stew that was Detroit during this time. He was now however making a middle class wage and had standing based on earnings. Both he and my mother worked in the automobile industry during my childhood...
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...on with him. Over the years, life’s many challenges limited my trips back to Detroit and my personal contacts with my father. We spoke on the telephone now and again, but it was not the same. I was making my way in the world building a family of my own and creating my own legacy. I now regret, however not asking all the questions I now have for him about his life and experiences. There are many details of his life that this exercise has shown me are missing from my memory, or knowledge.
This exercise has shown me the profound influence my father had on the choices I made early in life. These choices, starting with a decision to enlist in the Army shaped subsequent decisions leading to where I am today, a leader in a quasi-military organization where the professionalism, discipline, traditions and of course the uniform all played a role in attracting me to it.
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