Friday, March 18, 2022

Black Achievements Are Routinely Ignored In The Coast Guard


This was largest number of Black American 4/c cadets to ever enter the United States Coast Guard Academy (CGA) in a single class. (In the picture above)
Did anyone receive any Medals for that Historic Achievement? No! Not one. Not even a Coast Guard Achievement Medal was awarded to anyone.
Not before London Steverson; or, after London Steverson?
Black Officer contributions to the Coast Guard have been ignored!
Since 1876, the CGA had never seen so many Black Americans enter in one Class, until London Steverson started the Minority Recruiting Program.
He could still be awarded The Coast Guard Achievement Medal!
If anyone of the woke new-breed of Coast Guard Admirals is paying attention, now is the time to right an old wrong. These vintage Black American Trail Blazers are passing away. You can still do the right thing, for the right reason.
In 1964 the Coast Guard Officer Corps was 99.44 percent white. Less than one-half of one percent of the officer corps was Black Americans. It was comprised of Black enlisted men who had been promoted to chief warrant officers (CWO). They were men like CWO Oliver T Henry. A Coast Guard Cutter was recently named in his honor.
In 1973 the percentage of Black officers was still below one percent, but progress had been made, chiefly through the efforts of London Steverson and others.
In July 1972 LT London Steverson was reassigned from CCGD7(O) Juneau, Alaska to Washington, D.C. He became the Chief of G-PMR-3, Office of Personnel, Coast Guard Headquarters, 400 D Street, SW, Washington, D.C., 20591 in the John Volpe Building under the Department of Transportation. He was charged with working toward desegregating the nearly all-white US Coast Guard, starting with the United States Coast Guard Academy. He became the Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section (G-PMR-3),
From 1876 until 1962 the Academy had not admitted any Black American cadets. One graduated in 1966 (Merle James Smith III), two graduated in 1968 (Kenny Boyd and London Steverson) and one graduated in 1970 (Willie Pickrum). Merle Smith has passed away. Willie Pickrum has passed away.
Steverson's efforts were rewarded in 1973 when 28 Black cadets were sworn into the Class of 1977, and again in 1974 when 20 Black cadets were admitted as part of the Class of 1978. It was from these cadets that the Coast Guard's first African-American officers of flag rank were to come in the 1990's; officers such as Admiral Errol Brown and Three Star Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown.
1973 Conference of Minority Recruiters
One of the first things that he did when he took over as Chief of the Minority Recruiting Branch (G-PMR-3) was to convene a conference of all of the Minority Recruiters from every district in the continental USA. It was important to see who they were and what they were doing. He wanted to make sure they were all marching to the beat of the same drum, that they all understood what the mandate was, and that they all knew who was running the show. He wanted their loyalty, and their dedication to the mission. Most of all, he wanted them to know that a new day had dawned and he would not be satisfied with business as usual. LTJG Milt Moore in St. Louis was assigned the task of organizing and hosting the Conference in St. Louis. They all came; Charles Harper from Detroit, Gil Montoya from Los Angeles, Chief Lee Leyba from Albuquerque, Victor Jernigan,LT Percy Norwood, LT Earl Martin from Headquarters, Vince Chavez, and others.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Only In America, Living The Dream, Vol 03, Nr 05

Only in America could my Life Story have been possible. God has blessed me and my family. We rose from abject poverty and climbed several rungs up the Socioeconomic Ladder. 

Trying to write a book about my life is like trying to describe the landscape by looking out the window of a moving train. The events continue to unfold faster than one can describe them. My life is a work in progress. 
Only in America can a family escape poverty in one generation. America is unique. God has blessed America. I rose from abject poverty and climbed several rungs up the Socioeconomic Ladder. I was the first person in my family to complete high school, college and graduate school.
Living in America is not always  “peaches and cream”, if you are a Person of Color (POC). Life is not a Rose Garden for Black People no matter how well off you are economically. America can appear to be a Police State for a POC. Just going about your normal daily activities anywhere in America, chances are you are going to come into contact with police and other law enforcement personnel.  
 I have had many encounters with white cops. Most of them have been pleasant, some not so pleasant. It did not matter what I was wearing or the time of day, it was the character and education of the cop that determined how the situation was resolved. Sometimes I was wearing my military officers' uniform, other times I was wearing a suit and tie, but the manner that I was treated usually was determined by how comfortable the cop felt in dealing with a POC. I have been disrespected. I have been insulted. I have received Traffic Tickets. I have never been hand-cupped. I have never been arrested. I have never been beaten like Rodney King in California.
Religion was an integral part of our lives. We were taught to pray as soon as we learned to talk. We talked to Jesus and thanked Him for our Blessings. It started with saying Grace before our meals. We would not dare touch the food before it had been “blessed” by the Head of the Household.
 I am a Storyteller. This is my story. It is my Life. Looking back, I am convinced that God was in charge of my Life. He guided me as a Father would guide his child. He protected me when I ventured off the straight and narrow path. He endowed me with the Power of Choice and placed me in a Country where I had the Freedom To Choose. I am happy with the choices I made.    
(Visit Amazon Author's Page:

Friday, May 1, 2020

Officers' Club Named For First Black Grad

Coast Guard Academy renames officers club after first black graduate, retired Cmdr. Merle Smith

The Coast Guard Academy announced Tuesday that it is renaming its Military Officers Club after retired Cmdr. Merle J. Smith of New London, the first black graduate of the academy.
The 75-year-old Smith graduated from the academy in 1966 and went on to become the first African American sea service officer to receive the Bronze Star. Following his Coast Guard career, he became general counsel for Electric Boat, one of the first black general counsels for a Fortune 500 company.
He is included in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Smith’s classmates, in a letter congratulating him on the recognition, said “in recent years, as the emphasis on diversity and inclusiveness grew within the Coast Guard, you became a beacon of inspiration within the academy community encouraging others to strive for the unimaginable and forge new paths of greatness in the face of adversity and uncertainty.”
Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, superintendent at the academy, said in a video message Tuesday that he first met Smith and his wife, Lynda, earlier this year, and talked about opportunities to recognize and honor his legacy.
“They would come back here to meet with family, with friends, with faculty members, with cadets. It was an anchor for them, if you will.” Kelly said of the officers club, adding that Lynda told him they also enjoyed coming to the club on Friday nights to hang out.
In an email thanking Kelly for renaming the building after Smith, Lynda said her husband "not only feels honored but also humbled by this significant recognition of a building being renamed in tribute of his accomplishments."

( It is ironic that Merle was not recruited as a Black High School Student. He was recruited as a Football Player into the Class of 1962. The first Black American Cadets were not recruited until 1964. Football Coach Otto Graham said he was looking for Tight End, or a Defensive End for his football team.(Merle himself pointed this out in his Acceptance Speech in 2016 at the Genesis Awards Ceremony at the Academy when his Portrait was unveiled.) Moreover, he was not recognized or classified as a Black Cadet during his 4 years at the Academy.  In point of Fact, he did not appear to be a Black American. His hair was straight; his nose was sharp; and, his skin was lighter than Donnie Winchester, Phil Carbone, Ray Baylor, and others in the Class of 1966. It was not until the early 1970s when Commandant (G-PMR-3) started to emphasize Minority Recruiting that Statistics started to mention the Ethnicity of the Recruits. It was at that time that the Director of (G-PMR-3) proffered the Statistical Fact that Merle was, in fact, a Black American and the First Black Graduate. The Commandant (G-P) did not know that the USCGA had graduated a Black Ensign. His Classmates in their Letter are being a bit disingenuous when they impute altruistic motives after the fact. If we are writing or making History, we should, at least, try to be accurate and honest.  His Career has been spectacular and he has had a distinguished tour of duty.)

  (I love the article. I love Merle J. Smith. But I’m a little confused....there is already a Smith Hall, it’s the science building.  (Pictured Below is Smith Hall, The Science Building at the USCG Academy.) Does it make sense to name two buildings on the same campus Smith? What is the actual name of the new building? The Merle J. Smith Officers Club? The blog post doesn’t say.
And although I realize he spent a lot of his time at the O club and what an honor it is to have a building named after him or anyone for that matter.....for a long time black Americans could only be mess cooks in the military. Does it bother him that being named on a dining facility seems to point to that legacy?) (Talisha Rosen-Kellogg)

Not pictured in the newspaper article is Vice Admiral Thomas Sargent.

Above is  Admiral Thomas Sargent graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1938. He was then assigned to the USCGC Tahoe.

Below is Admiral Willard John Smith who is pictured in the Graduation Ceremony picture.  Upon graduation from the academy in 1933, he was assigned to a Galveston, Texas-based Coast Guard cutter and later served as an aide to Commandant Russell R. Waesche from 1936 to 1939.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Costa Rica Trip

Letter to Señor Martino, Proprieter of Martino Resort and Spa, Allajeula, Costa Rica (circa 1999)
Dear Señor Martino and Staff,
Mr. George Bernard Shaw said that "The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life". This is to say that your hotel, The Club Martino, provided me and my fellow members of the Association with more than a refuge, but a veritable paradise while we were in Costa Rica.  Everything about your hotel is first class. The rooms are luxurious. The grounds are immaculate. The spa well equipped. The food is scrumptious. The service is professional. The view is breathtaking. The flora and fauna are soul satisfying. The owner (referred to Alfonso Martino) is a man of arts and letters and quotes George Bernard Shaw. Our stay was unforgettable.
Warmest regards to you and all the Staff.
Judge London Steverson - Apr 1999
chez Martino Resort and Spa, Allajeula, Costa Rica


Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Cleon Smith is a Coast Guard Academy Graduate in the Class of 1978. He was a Classmate of Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown, the Coast Guard’s first African-American 3-Star Admiral.

Cleon is also the Father of Cadet Webster Smith, the first Coast Guard Academy cadet to be punished by a General Court-martial. Cleon Smith never lost faith in his son. He knew his son was not guilty of a Crime under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ).

He tried very hard to resolve the matter. He went to meet with Douglas Wiznieuski, the Commandant of Cadets. CDR Wiznieuski was hell bent to Court-martial his son. He would not settle for a Summary Court-martial, or a Special Court-martial That could have sentenced his son to 6 months in jail. No, CDR Wiznieuski wanted a General Court-martial that could have sentenced his son to jail for 20 years to Life. He wanted to make an example out of Webster. He had the backing of The Academy Superintendent Admiral James Van Sice and Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays. They wanted to send a message to the World. They did not care whether Senior Cadet Webster Smith was Innocent or Guilty.

The Coast Guard Academy had been the first Military Academy to admit female cadets. In the era of complaints of sexual assaults on female cadets, these men wanted to be the first Academy to punish a male cadet for assault and harassment. The Academy wanted to reassure the Alumni of female cadets that their daughters were safe, and Congressman Shays wanted to get re-elected. He saw this as a great Election Year issue. Unfortunately he was wrong. He lost his next election.
(Pictured above USCGA Class of 1978. Cleon Smith is Top Row, Farthest Right. Manson Brown is Bottom Row, farthest Left.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Belinda Smith The Wonders Of A mother's Love

The Court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith was just too much for Belinda, Webster’s mother. She exhibited great dignity and restraint. She was the most gracious lady under pressure while in the public spot light since Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers, and Jackie Kennedy all rolled into one. They mourned the death of their husbands. Belinda mourned the sacrifice of her son, and the death of his Coast Guard career.
The civilian employees at the Coast Guard Academy could not help but notice, her poise and dignity under such enormous pressure. They were mothers and sisters. Webster could have been their son or brother. They were so moved that they were compelled to act. They had to reach out to her in a practical way. They presented her with a note and a gift. The card read,
"We are so proud of the way you have carried yourself here, with much dignity and poise. Please take this small token of respect and do something nice for yourself. “

Belinda Smith found some relief in writing a journal. She reduced her thoughts to writing. This is a sample:
“ If you could only feel what I have felt for these past 6 years, I have a strong relationship with JUSTICE that I am not able to shake. People say, "get over it, get a life!" I cannot! I closely watch Webster's life and all of my children's lives after this tragedy, and I am amazed by the spirit within them."

Part 1. (To be continued)
#ucgc #justice

The Court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith was just too much for Belinda, Webster’s mother. She exhibited great dignity and restraint
“ If you could only feel what I have felt for these past 6 years, I have a strong relationship with JUSTICE that I am not able to shake.  People say, "get over it, get a life!"  I cannot!  I closely watch Webster's life and all of my children's lives after this tragedy, and I am amazed by the spirit within them."

"I sometimes think,  I use to be able to overcome obstacles, (I had so many). If this is possible, I gave my spirit, my soul and my mind to my children, and they are using it to go on in life. Today though, I felt that in many ways I failed......I became an empty shell at one point in my life, soon after the death of my brother. Looking back, those are the moments when I knew my children's firm foundation was in place.  I see it now in Webster, Brittney and the twins.  They have been through a lot and look at them, still achieving and motivated to make it. That's why I said I failed them, I lost that!  God's grace is sufficient. “
“The two weeks of the court-martial was very difficult for me, because as I've said before; I knew in my heart that Webster was being setup and I was sure when the evidence was heard, he would be exonerated.   Somewhere along the way, I begin to tell myself, these people are not going to allow my son to walk out of here an innocent man that he is, because this would bring the Coast Guard to their knees.  There is a lot I could say about this but I will not.  Would I let another one of my sons go to the Academy, well, one of my twin sons was determined to go the CGA, actually Alex was in the prep program a NMMI, until Capt. B decided not to accept him because he had a 2.4 GPA but accepted other cadets at NMMI that had a even lower GPA to go to the academy.  That same year Kristen Nicholson’s younger brother was accepted.  Kristen said in an email to my daughter and me, and she actually said, I am doing what I was told to do and went on to say as I understood, you do what those over you tell you to do,  There were two female cadets that came to the court-martial in support of Webster, but were afraid to say so,  They would always come up to me and give me a hug.  One even alluded to the fact that Jesse Harms would go from the court-martial to the upstairs law office where the girls were to tell them what was said in court.  One day, I waited at the end of the stairs and yes he came down the stairs just as they said.  I was also told that Shannon and Shelly were spending time together during the court-martial, and we actually saw them together at Panera’s Bread when we all went to eat.  I bought this up to LT  Kirkby, Webster’s Navy lawyer, and he did nothing about it. During the Court-martial, Admiral Van Sice came up to Webster and me, and he spoke to Webster and said something to the fact that , everything will be alright it will take some time.”
“This is LIPSTICK JUSTICE that we have witness.  Lipstick covers the lips in order to make them beautiful and when it wears off, you will see  all the imperfections that is always there.  The girls in this trial wore that lipstick and I will not rest until I see their bare lips.  You may not understand my analogies, but it make sense to me.  I know for sure that as I read further the record of trial, that night that those girls met, LTJG Miller said that there were 7 girls and so did the first reporting in the news.  Then at trial she said there were seven (7) girls and later changed it to five (5) because the judge said and lead her to change it to 5,  You know why, the second meeting that they had, Katie had told them about Shelly and Sheri and Kristen went to get those two.  I know they are hiding that lie.  Katie was the only person that knew about Shelly and Stacy was the only one that knew about Katie,  When Stacy met with Kristen in their private meeting, Stacy told Kristen about Katie and that's how Kristen found out.  They then went to Katie and confronted her about Webster and all she could do after that was to join in because she was angry possibly that Webster had told Stacy.  Katie knew she had to save her face so she wrote a statement to keep her and her father out of trouble to appease them, but she had enough integrity not go alone with the "witch hunt".  The biggest secret isn't Shelly's. it's the fact that they are covering up why Shelly did not want to come forward and bring charges against Webster until she was confronted by her regimental commander and the legal team, especially after they threaten to  charge her with disobeying a direct order and article 125. They either falsified the date of Shelly's statement which is Feb.16th or they had to use undue command influence to get her to testify either way; it was unethical. Even then, if the statement was written on Feb 16 why did they not give this to the Defense upon their Discovery Request?  No, the defense did not know about Shelly until March 8th when Anderson sent a letter stating, all witness has to on the list by March 10th.  This caused the defense to have to delay the Article 32 to compose themselves.  Sometimes, I think this was a plan to delay the trial so that they all could graduate before the trial began in order to convince Shelly she could get her degree, even if she was charged with any crime.  At least she had her degree if they gave her walking papers. 
“I know I will find a way to be heard!  I am missing something!  I pray for Katie and the other girls in this case and when I feel it's time, I will reach out.  I have noticed that Katie no longer has friends from the Coast Guard on her Facebook.  That may be because she has broken ties with them.  I am researching and studying as much as I can from information from these sites.  I have also noticed, that Kristen, Shelly, Kristen's friend "Jersey" who also testified are all pregnant or had babies before there 5 years were up.  Kristen married Howard Baker the guy who told her about Katie's relationship with Webster.

Most people know the basic premise of the story, the collusion of several young women that resulted in the court-martial of the first cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Shelly Raudenbush Wyman was the lone victor of the several women that accounted for the 22 charges against Webster Smith. Why did she come forward over two months after Webster Smith was removed from classes, following the allegations by then Regimental Commander-Kristen Nicholson, her two best friends Shannon Frobel, Kristin Strizki and Nicholson's subordinates: Stacy Chmielecki, Keri McCormack, and Katie Colella?
During the Court-Martial, Webster was represented by LT Stuart Kirkby and Merle J. Smith. Neither believed that the charges would prevail for the government. They did not pursue details of Shelly's relationship with the other female cadets. They could not mention Katie Colella or call her to the stand, Captain Judge, the Trial Judge at the court-martial, denied her as a defense witness. Besides Kristen Nicholson, she was the only person who could detail how and why she came forward. Her father had just been appointed the Dean of Students at the Academy and wanted no part of it. This was not the only reason that Smith's attorneys did not further pursue Shelly. Shelly Raudenbush Wyman was charged with two UCMJ violations--including disobeying an order--by the Coast Guard Academy, to push her to cooperate. She consulted with an attorney before the Smith trial and would not testify in the May pre-trial hearing so that she would not incriminate herself. The academy did not give her prosecutorial or testimonial immunity until the day she testified.

Why did she come forward?

The only cadet that knew about Webster and Shelly's sexual relationship was then-cadet Katie Colella.
Katie Colella and Webster went out several times in November of 2005. Over Thanksgiving Break when Webster decided to stay at the Academy, he picked her up from Captain Colella's home in Ledyard, Connecticut. They went out on the first of two or three dates, with the blessing of the Captain. The first night, they went to a club called Complex and outside of the Complex Webster told Katie about Shelly. Katie asked Webster to end it if he wanted to hang out with her.
Before the investigation, as the evidence revealed, Katie had not told the Regimental Commander about Shelly.
Katie played as integral a role as Kristen Nicholson did in pushing the charges but when it came time to end Webster's career, she was nowhere on the charge sheet. The circumstances around their relationship could not be crafted for a charge sheet and maybe she had a little more integrity than the others.
In February of 2006 when CAPT Wisniewski realized that Webster was not going to plead guilty to the original charges, he stood before the Corps of Cadets in the Chase Hall wardroom and asked for any additional female cadets to testify against Webster Smith.
Katie Colella, Shelly's track teammate, told Kristen of the conversation about Shelly. Kristen, the acting Regimental Commander, approached Shelly (Shelly admitted in trial) and several days later, she was interviewed by CGIS.
Not only was there a question of criminal prosecution for Shelly, she squelched rumors to save her engagement to Grant Wyman by agreeing to help the girls with Webster Smith. Shelly's fiancé was not there to support her during any of the hearings or the trial. Shelly did not attend or testify against Webster at the sentencing hearing Katie Colella was later kicked out on an Honor Violation; but, she was readmitted later in the Spring of 2008. Several other senior officers’ kids were readmitted after being kicked out. (Another cadet who was kicked out of the Coast Guard Academy because of an honor violation was the son of Admiral James Loy (retired). He was readmitted to the Academy  in about1992, and then kicked out again for another Honor Violation. Then he goes through OCS and earns a commission despite his Academy background.)
Webster's continued relationship with Shelly was never allowed into evidence in court. Her lobbying Webster to join the track team, and her frequent trips to Webster's dorm room to comfort him after several issues that Webster had had with his ex-girlfriend, Kristen Nicholson, in early November were never allowed into evidence.
The Court of Appeals majority ruling stated that there was no reason for Shelly to misrepresent the truth in trial.
Even in civilian life, after a conviction and serving time in jail, Webster was not free from Coast Guard interference in his life. A web site was set up for his friends and family to keep in touch. It was shut down.
This entry was posted by on June 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.

"We were notified today that Webster Smith, the first cadet to ever be courts-martialed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has had his site blocked by the U.S. Coast Guard. Smith’s website “Friends of Webster” is not accessible inside the Coast Guard domain. We reviewed the site and couldn’t find anything in our cursory review that would warrant being blocked."