African American Soldiers
This page is dedicated to African Americans from the state of Kansas who served in the armed forces during the First World War. Unlike other “Great War Kansans,” most of these soldiers do not have photographs or images by which to remember them, and so we honor them now with special mention.
George Alexander Sweatt is best remembered as one of the ballplayers from the glory days of baseball’s Negro Leagues, one of the many who was likely good enough to play in the major leagues but never got the chance due to their race. Sweatt would play in the first four Negro Leagues World Series, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1924 and 1925, and the Chicago American Giants in 1926 and 1927.
2nd Lieutenant Elbert Sanford Wright was born January 25, 1894 at Baldwin City, Kansas. He was a graduate of the local university, Baker, which made him eligible to attend the officers’ training school at Fort Des Moines. While he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant, we do not have information about which unit he belonged.
1st Lieutenant John E. Wilson was born December 4, 1881 at Mobile, Alabama. He had been working as a porter in 1901 when he enlisted in the 9th U.S. Cavalry, one of the “Buffalo Soldier” regiments. He served for six years, and records found so far suggest he never rose above being a private. However, since attendance at the officers’ training school at Fort Des Moines required either being a non-commissioned officer or a college education, one may assume he did reach at least the rank of corporal, as there is no indication of a college education.
1st Lieutenant Johnson Chesnut Whittaker, Jr. appears on the list of Kansans that went to Fort Des Moines, but he was in a way an accidental Kansan. Born September 25, 1896 in Sumter, South Carolina, Whittaker was raised in Oklahoma City, but in 1917 he was a student at the University of Kansas. That certainly qualified him for the officers’ training school.
Aldon Leslie Logan was born in Lawrence, KS, on April 14, 1894. The city directory for 1915 shows he was a student at the University of Kansas, which would qualify him for the officers’ training school. His draft registration card shows him to have been working as a laborer for the Griffin Ice Company of Lawrence.
Wesley Herbert Jamison was born July 20, 1889 at Topeka. His father was a lawyer, and Wesley followed him into the profession. He attended the University of Kansas Law School, passing the bar examinations in 1913. This is also what qualified him for officers’ training school, where he got his commission as a 2nd lieutenant. He served in the 351st Machine Gun Battalion of the 92nd Division.
Arthur Allen Hill was born on November 26, 1878 in Kansas — probably in Lawrence — to parents who had been born in Virginia, raising the question as to whether or not they had been slaves. A city directory indicates that Arthur was a gardener before the war, but one who was college educated. Census records indicate that fact, although there is no indication of where he attended college. This was enough to qualify him for the officers’ training school, where he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant. He served in Company K of the 372nd Infantry, 93rd Division.
Of the Kansans who attended the officers training school at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, Lee J. Hicks was the only one who would be commissioned a captain — all the others were 1st or 2nd lieutenants. Of 626 commissions given, only 104 were for captains.
Attending the training school required either being a college graduate or a non-commissioned officer. In Hicks case, he was a graduate of the now defunct Western University at Quindaro. From there he went to Tuskegee University, where he reportedly was the secretary to the brother of Booker T. Washington.
We return again to the list of African American soldiers from Kansas who attended the officers’ training school at Fort Des Moines, Iowa ( http://www.kansasww1.org/the-african-american-soldier-kansans-at-fort-des-moines/ ). It is difficult to find much information about them, so if anyone has additional knowledge of these soldiers, they are encouraged to share it.
An earlier post discussed the African American soldiers who were selected for officers’ training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. ( http://www.kansasww1.org/the-african-american-soldier-kansans-at-fort-des-moines/ ) We return to that list with another brief biography of one of the men.