My friend Dennis Quinn — and many others — lost a special man a week ago. His name was Jimmie K. Locke, our boss in Vietnam. We gave the morning briefing to the three-star general who commanded II Field Force, which controlled the many US divisions in the corps that included Saigon. Jim was a Texas gentleman, and a great teacher and role model.
Jim wrote the following when I asked him to write an endorsement for my book. He had faithfully critiqued my efforts over the three or so years it took me to produce Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid. I think his words below say more about this exceptional man than any encomium I might compose.
I was born and raised in the North; North Texas that is, during the Great Depression. Like most people at that time, the family was poor, uneducated and struggling to make life worth living. The black man was called “nigger” or “boy” and was considered a lesser person, although there were certain hypocrisies between the races and relationships of various sorts were formed. Often, the affection felt was shown only when young or among like-minded folk. All relationships varied; there were no norms.
One example of this was my preschool friend, John Henry. We played together, chased each other, ate at each of our tables during meals, slept over at each of our homes, and shared any piece of candy or sweet we obtained. John Henry was very dear to me, and I remember the anger I had when we were not allowed to sit together at the ten cent Saturday morning movie or to share a five cent hamburger at one of the cafes. We earned the funds for these treats by roaming the streets and collecting any piece of iron we could find. This was a co-operative effort.
No one seemed to think it strange that black and white people could be friends. The intermingling was further defined by occupation, people maintaining the properties, washing and ironing clothing, and black “Mammys” caring for and often raising white children. Relationships were often close, and the black “Mammys” were usually termed “Auntie.” This sort of relationship, in various degrees, was pervasive throughout the culture regardless of wealth or status.
Gene Betit’s magnificent book of research and presentation illustrates many of the difficulties the blacks had in trying to achieve a place in white society when, even in modern times, acceptance has been grudging. However, the military has proven the black soldier to be of equal value to the white, and many of the civilian occupations are starting to open for them. The full integration of the nation’s peoples, and thus the nation’s potential, can only be achieved when the various ethnic, cultural, religious, and racial qualities are subjugated, and we the people realize we are one.
Lieutenant-Colonel, USA (RET)