MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Last week two lifelong friends died on the same day in Los Angeles. These men lived to ripe old age of 91. While passing on the same day as ones best friend is certainly an unlikely coincidence you might be asking yourself why is this – in and of itself - worth editorializing? Well, these two men were proud members of the Tuskegee Airmen -- a group we know all too well here in central Alabama.
Clarence E. Huntley Jr., and Joseph Shambrey enlisted together in 1942 and worked with the 100th Fighter Squadron. There is a touching story and one that points specifically to the character of these men told by Shambrey's son, Tim. He recalled his father telling him about getting off a train in Alabama where a hospitality station was welcoming returning troops. The white troops were greeted with handshakes and free coffee and the black troops received no congratulations and no coffee. Tim went on to say that his father and his friend were proud men used to such discrimination and made no fuss about the obvious slight.
Well I'm here to make a fuss. In this anniversary year of remembrance on all things related to the civil rights movement in America it's important to reflect on the failures we as a society have delivered to others. It's despicable to me to think men of color that served our country proudly were not so much as given a handshake of thanks upon returning home to American soil. Our country's ugly civil rights past is not a "mirror" that many would look proudly into; let's make sure our civil rights future is one we can all look forward to proudly embracing.