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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Mother, Dorothy Brooks Primus ( Part I)

In my previous post I mentioned how my dad's oldest brother, the late Dr. Jay Primus, would serve as a conduit for an event in my father's life. Both brothers would make history as being members of two Congressional Medal of Honor Groups, The Montford Point Marines for dad, and The Tuskegee Airmen for his brother. The Primus Brothers both served their country courageously during World War II. They jointly fought the enemy in the Pacific Theater, the European Theater and at home--Jim Crow.

My intentions were to continue with my father's military time, and continue the narrative in somewhat of a linear succession. However, being a blogger affords me poetic license to change the direction of the story as needed. The wife of Montford Point Marine Clifford Primus, Dorothy Primus, passed after a long illness on March 12, 2013.  My mom and dad were married for sixty three years. Here is the background on how they met:

My Uncle Jay traveled to Nashville, TN. during his military furloughs. Nashville, TN in the forties was a charming southern city. It is a musical city, the home of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. It had strong, genteel traditions and families. Furthermore, Nashville had great southern cuisine and entertainment venues. There was a thriving African American middle class as well as an upper class. Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Fisk, Tennessee State, and Meherry Medical College are located in Nashville. A college friend of mine would joke about the young females that hung around Meherry, in hopes of snagging a young doctor.

According to my father, Uncle Jay thought my father would like Nashville, TN. It was Post World War II, and the Allies (Which included the United States) emerged as victors over the Axis Powers. One of the benefits of being a veteran is college tuition assistance. Dad attended Fisk University in Nashville, upon the suggestion of his brother. Fisk has an excellent academic reputation, and was world famous for its Fisk Jubilee Singers. The Fisk Jubilee Singers traveled the US and even to Europe. They even performed abroad in front of the Queen of England who enjoyed their performance of Negro Spirituals. Spirituals are inspirational music that allowed blacks to sustain their inner strength and persevere during enslavement and emancipation.

Dad not only liked Nashville, but he loved it. He was an older, amiable student and military veteran on campus, and drove a convertible Buick. Last week, while driving my dad around in his Cadillac, he instructed me to have two hands on the wheel. "Like three and nine o'clock; Dad, I feel like I'm sixteen." I then inquired, "Were you one of those people that drove their big cars with a lean, back in the day?" I then demonstrated the ostentatious fashion. "No, he replied. I set trends, I didn't follow them." Back in the late forties, according to dad, he was the BMOC, which stands for Big Man on Campus. He knew a lot of people, and described guys like "Pretty Willie, who went on to be a politician in Chicago.


While at Fisk, Dad pledged a fraternity. Dad pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. and can sing his frat song on cue. He indicated that some of his frat brothers "borrowed" his car while pledging. Pledging is the initiation time before becoming a "Nupe". It is interesting to note that my father can recite his serial number from the Marine Corps and recall his fraternity song at age 89.  Dad also reminisced about homecoming games at top ranked Howard University in Washington, D.C. Homecoming at Howard is a rite of passage for black people. You go, take in the scene, be seen, have fun and party.
Partying is what my father continued to do while matriculating at Fisk. But every collegiate needs to know the invaluable skill of time management, especially if you are taking advanced courses. If a college student does not maintain an adequate grade point average they receive a letter asking to improve in their studies. Apparently Dad's grades did not improve so he subsequently transferred to Tennessee State University.  The most famous Alum of TSU is Media Mogul and first Black female billionaire Oprah Winfrey.

 My favorite alum of TSU is the late Dorothy Brooks Primus, my mother, native of Nashville, Tennessee and spouse of Montford Point Marine Clifford Primus. She is the subject of my next post.

Post Script: It is definitely an honor for the Montford Point Marines to have a Naval Ship named after them. The USNS Montford Point (T-MLP-) is the lead ship of mobile landing platforms. This ship has generated a lot of reader interest overseas in its capabilities....

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