On Nov. 11, 2018 (Veterans Day) Google honored Olivia J. Hooker by featuring her story on the Google Doodle. It was their salute to all the military veterans on Veterans Day. As an Air Force and Army veteran I listened to all the stories.
When Olivia started to tell her story, and she said that she was 103 and that she was the first African American to join the US Coast Guard in 1945. I became curious, so I went to Wikipedia, the on-line Encyclopedia to learn more.
Hooker applied to the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) of the US Navy, but was rejected because of her ethnicity, so she enlisted in the US Coast Guard instead. She was one of only five African American females to first enlist in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS) program. She thought she would be working in the galley, scrubbing pots and pans but she performed administrative duties. She earned the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class before the program was disbanded.
Olivia J. Hooker is also the oldest survivor of Black wall street and the Tulsa Oklahoma Riots. The Greenwood neighborhood of 10,000 residents were totally destroyed. And at that time it was one of the most prominent concentrations of African American businesses in the United States during the early 20th century.
The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 was one of the most devastating massacres in the history of US Race relations; 10,000 African Americans were left homeless and property damage amounted to $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property ($30 million in 2017 dollars all together). Olivia was only six when she survived the riots.
Olivia did more than survive she thrived. She went on to earn her master’s and her PhD and became an Associate Professor at Fordham University. She was also a founding member of the American Psychological Association (APS) and she served as the early Director of the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York.
In 2015, the Staten Island Coast Guard Dining Facility was named in her honor and a Coast Guard Training Facility at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C. was also named in her honor.
President Obama in his address to the United States Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015 said that her story captures the persistence and patriotism of people willing to do the hard thing during difficult times. The mob destroyed her father’s clothing store, they looted her house and they even burned the little cloths for her doll, but she didn’t give into bitterness. She said, ” It’s not about you or me. It’s about what we can give to this world.” I call it leaving a lasting legacy!
I was home along in my last year of high school (dad was out of town for the weekend) when the 1967 Detroit Riots broke out in which 2,000 building were destroyed, 7,200 people were arrested,1,100 people were injured and 43 people were killed. I was not shot or arrested so I was able to enlist into the Air Force to escape the assembly line. I transitioned into the Army by way of the R.O.T.C. program. As I publish my first book we will see what kind of legacy I will leave.