As we enter into the month of Celebrating Black History, I can’t help but be reminded of those who have been trailblazers in years past, who paved the way for us. Some of whom are known nationally and locally, others of whom are often overlooked for their contributions to the African American race. They include but not limited to:
• Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Rosa Louise McCauley Parks/ Civil rights activist, Montgomery Bus Boycott
• Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, 1st Black President of an Ivy League University
• Fannie Lou Hammer, Freedom Democratic Party, Voting Rights Activist
• Sociologist Dr. Romeo B. Garrett, First African American Professor of Bradley University
• Social Activist, John Gwynn Jr. Past President of the local and State NAACP as well as a member of the National Board of the NAACP
Howard T. Ray
Someone I consider an intricate part of my own personal Black History is my Uncle Howard T. Ray— respectively known as “Uncle T,” a man of substance, dignity, valor, and courage. He was born in Okolona, Mississippi, migrated to East St. Louis, IL, and eventually enlisted in the U.S. Army at the height of the Korean Conflict, in which he became a prisoner of war (POW). He served his country diligently over a span of 45 years, serving active duty over 29 years and the remainder as a civilian employee at Fort Sam Houston as the contingency planner. He received the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart Service Award, Vietnam Service Award, Republic of Korea President L Unit citation Badge, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Award, Korean Defense Award, and Armed Forces Expeditionary Award. He was a Charter member, Bexar Buffalo Soldiers Association; Charter Member and Past President Sergeants Major Association, Fort Sam Houston; Life Member, Non-Commission Officers Association (NCOA); Past Chaplain, Department of Texas, Military Order of Purple Heart (MOPH); and Life Member, Manchu Association, 2nd Infantry Division.
Along with a litany of military, veterans, civic, and social organizations, he also had time to serve as a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather of a blended family. He was also a brother and devoted husband of 22 years.
Uncle ‘T’ was the historian of the family. When he wasn’t tinkering with all of the latest technology gadgets (and he had them all), he was often telling the family stories and trying to get us to remember several family members.
If it dealt with the family, Trust Howard ‘T’ had all the pictures and dates to accompany his stories. He was just a fun, cool guy to be around, and he taught me if you just take a moment, you will get to know all of your family history. It was his hope and aspiration that all the family history would be shared with the upcoming millennials and that we would try and stick together with one another.
That’s my Uncle ‘T.’