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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Person Who Influenced Dad's Decision In Joining The Marines

The fateful meeting with James Huger in Clifford Primus' hometown of  Daytona Beach, Florida obviously influenced the teenager. Even today, my father vividly described the six stripes up and six stripes down on Huger's uniform. James Huger, as my dad would say in his own parlance, "Is a heavy dude." Heavy meaning "serious and intense", for my English as a Second Language Readers.

Source: newsjournalonline.mycapture 

Mr. Huger credits two women for making a difference in his life:  His wife of 71 years, the late Phanye Huger, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Dr. Bethune founded Historically Black Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was also close friends with Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and was a leader in civil rights. I envision Phanye Huger as a very supportive and intelligent woman; she was a school principal who I am willing to bet impacted many lives.

 Source: vintageblackglamour
Dr Bethune and students at the college* she founded. 

James Huger moved to Daytona Beach, Florida from West Palm Beach, Florida. His father was a prominent minister who housed Dr. Bethune at the Huger home in West Palm Beach, as people of color could not stay in hotels. Later on, James Huger worked at Bethune Cookman and earned a degree in Business Administration from West Virginia State University. Bethune helped him get a job in the War Department, and he enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941. 1941 was the year that the Marine Corps finally accepted African-Americans. The Marines were the last branch of the American armed forces to do so.

James Huger also served as general secretary for Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., the nation's first Black fraternity and service organization, in 1939.  It was Huger and several of his Alpha brothers who years later went to fellow Alpha brother Dr. Martin Luther King's Miami trial. Mr. Huger and his friends "were shocked how King was treated by his own attorney." Dr. King's attorney  referred to his client as that boy. (Iinformation obtained by Daytona Times, April 6, 2012.) Huger and others assisted Dr. King financially. They raised significant amounts of money for the civil rights movement.

Huger was asked by Bethune to be in charge of the first UNCF (United Negro College Fund) for Bethune Cookman-College. To date, UNCF has raised more than 2 billion dollars to help a total of more than 350,000 students to attend college, more than any entity outside of the government. (Source:

If you were African American and were fortunate enough to go to college in the South during the first half of the 1900s, you went to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Higher institutions of learning did not accept African Americans, hence Black land grant and private intuitions were established. Most were established after the American Civil War and in the South except for two in the state of Pennsylvania and two in Ohio. Ohio and Pennsylvania prohibited slavery;  three of these Northern HBCUs were established before the Civil War.     (Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2008-01-17, White House Initiative on HBCUs)

What better person to get my father to enlist in the Marines than James Huger? A hometown hero, college graduate, officer, and a man of honor?

*White Hall, a building on Bethune-Cookman's campus, is listed in the National Registry of Historical Sites
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