Gravely, Huff Widow Witness Exhibit Debut
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 1998 The Navy's first black admiral and the widow of the Marine Corps' first black sergeant major were honored guests Aug. 17 at the unveiling of five African-American exhibits in the Pentagon.
Retired Vice Adm. Samuel Gravely and Mrs. Beulah Huff, widow of Sgt. Maj. Edgar R. Huff, were among a throng of spectators who toured the exhibits in the African Americans in Defense of Our Nation corridor following the dedication. The four services and the National Guard each contributed an exhibit.
Huff, accompanied by her son, Edgar Jr., and grandsons Edgar III and Jerome Huff, was elated when she reached the Marine Corps' exhibit featuring her late husband's picture and his walking cane.
Huff's walking stick has 20 copper rings engraved with the battles and operations in which he participated. Earlier this year, Mrs. Huff donated the cane and her husband's campaign hat and helmet to the Marine Corps. The hat and helmet are displayed at the Marine Corps Museum at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Decked out in his Young Marines uniform, Edgar III, 11, said he wants to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and become a Marine sergeant major. The youngster is a private first class in the Camp Lejeune, N.C., detachment of Young Marines.
"I'm satisfied now. All of my husband's wishes are completed," said Huff, who married the sergeant major in 1947. "His last wish before he passed away on May 2, 1994, was for his cane, campaign hat and helmet to be put in the Marine Museum."
The late sergeant major enlisted in the Marine Corps, Sept. 24, 1942, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which allowed African Americans to be recruited during World War II. He became known as a Montford Point Marine, the name given to the first black Marines, who trained at Montford Point Camp, New River, N.C.
Huff said she and her husband used to discuss the hardships black Marines endured. "We'd talk about it and he'd say, 'I'm gonna take it. I'm gonna do it. I don't care what they throw at me.' And I'd be right behind him, holding him, helping him."
She said her husband used to say, "The Marine Corps has been good to me, but I've been good to the Marine Corps, too."
Gravely, who became a flag officer in 1971, said he never thought African Americans would be honored with a corridor in the Pentagon. Then he added, "I didn't think I was going to be an admiral, either.
"It's a great idea to have a corridor dedicated to African-American contributions to the defense of the nation," Gravely said. "Black Americans have contributed as much to this country as anybody else. They've got corridors for everybody else, and we should have one, too."
One corridor exhibit highlights the 218 African Americans who have attained general and flag officer ranks.
"I think we could have made a few more," Gravely said.