Friends of Webster

Raised in the house, but field certified.

Providence (prv-dns, -dns) n. – The care, guardianship, and control exercised by a deity; divine direction

james and web1.jpg

*A painting of a West Point Cadet surrounded by a cloud of racial tension, followed by another cadet…much further down the road. To that cadet’s behest, life is not much different than 1870.

James Webster Smith went on to recieve his commission, posthumously. When U.S. Representative, James Spratt presented his relatives with his commision in 1997, Smith had been dead for over 120 years. In this day and age, everything moves with haste but it’s interesting–but will Webster Smith have to wait as long? J.W. Smith’s father told him upon leaving for Westpoint in 1870, “You are elevated to a high position,” he said, “and you must stand it like a man. Do not let them run you away … Show your spunk and let them see that you will fight. That is what you are sent to West Point for.” Webster once told me that those words helped get him through the Spring of 2006. He always asked me why the academy presumed that they failed as instructors and that a cadet would buckle under pressure? Webster’s mischief aside, “they should have atleast been able to admit that they prepared me for this.” He explained to me that he would handle his persecution like an ideal officer, prepared to fall on his sword. Noble, silent, determined, and Honorable. He told me that he would not lie–and he didn’t, even when the truth on even the smallest of matters, surely meant his demise. Why do I tell you any of this? Because he won’t. It is not a coincidence that Webster learned about James Webster Smith shortly before his ordeal began. They were similar men.

Senator Pratt said that James Webster Smith was harassed, court-martialed twice his plebe year, turned back a full year, and finally expelled. But through it all, he “stood it like a man.”

Imagine knowing that you were going to lose, out of sheer disparity and unfairness. Imagine knowing that you had no chance of fulfilling your dream–long before your dreams would be denied by General-Court Martial. Now, would you have stood before flags and Captains, humbled and attentive and relayed what Webster said in so many words? I am innocent, but you will find my guilty. To you–my life is over, but I haved prayed for divine providence and I will recieve it. Would you have kept your mouth shut when you knew an ounce of selfishness would have set you free? My friend, my friend. A confident fellow with an ounce of arrogance but strong, much stronger than anyone at the academy knew. Funny thing is, he never lost that strength. He just passed a little of it on to his younger brothers and he took the rest of it to climb back up that mountain, with the help of that divine providence that he had prayed for. With that providence, Webster will achieve his life long dream of defending the innocent and correcting the corrupt–with a smile on his face. Many of the men and women in the Coast Guard will never experience his smile like I continue to. But for those who miss it, look to young Alexander Smith, CGA Class of 2012. Why? He’s just as strong and his smile has not been hindered by the pain of a dream being deferred. A dream DEFERRED.

-A Friend
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In 1870, James Webster Smith became the first African-American admitted to the United States Military Academy. He came from South Carolina. He was completely ostracized by the Corps and was dismissed for academic failure after four years at West Point. There was powerful racism at West Point. Much of the hazing and harassment toward Smith was lead by Fred Grant the son of President Ulysses S. Grant who was a cadet at the academy. In 1873, a Georgian, by the name of Henry O. Flipper benefited by the efforts of Smith. He survived his years at the academy by being as determined as his classmates were prejudiced. In 1877 he became the academy’s first African-American graduate. In 1881 Lieutenant Flipper’s commanding officer accused him of embezzling funds and of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen.” While he was acquitted of the embezzlement charge, he was found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer. On June 30, 1882, he was dismissed from the Army. In all the academy admitted 12 African-American cadets between 1865 and 1900, three of whom graduated. Another African-American cadet, Webster M. Smith was court-martialed on sexual assault and other charges July 2006. While many of the charges were dropped Webster Smith was court-martialed, becoming the first such court-martial in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s history. Some things never change it seems.

–Kenneth Traynor, Artist.

August 3rd, 2007 Posted by | News | one comment

Pennsylvania Ave?