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Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs Honoring 19 County Heroes During Black History Month with Tributes at Silver Spring Civic Building Throughout February

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs is honoring 19 County military service members and veterans with detailed tributes displayed throughout February at Buffalo Soldiers Great Hall at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The Black History Month display is free to view any time the Civic Building is open to the public.

The Silver Spring Civic Building is located at One Veterans Place in Downtown Silver Spring. The main room of the building was dedicated in 2018 as Buffalo Soldiers Great Hall to pay tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers unit that was formed by Congressional legislation in the 1860s that allowed African Americans to enlist in the United States military.

The County service members and veterans featured in the tribute of photos, background information and details of accomplishments during their military careers and afterward include John Chaney, Fred Cherry, Sr., James "Pat" Daugherty, Justin Davis, Lillian Fishburne, Jeremiah Floyd, Charles Frazier, Gloria Gardner, Elwood Gray, Jr., Otto Hamilton, Arthur Holmes, Jr., Isiah Leggett, Charles McGee, Roscoe Nix, Vernon Ricks, Jr., William Smith, Jr., Charles Williams, Waverly "Woody" Woodson, Jr. and William Zeigler.

The display also includes photos of the Buffalo Soldiers Calvary.

“Every veteran who has served in the history of the U.S. military has their own unique story,” said Dan Bullis, chair of the County’s Commission on Veterans Affairs. “It is the intent of our commission to allow residents to learn more about these remarkable people. The 14 we are honoring during Black History Month all have stories that the people of this County should know.”

As part of the Silver Spring celebration of Black History Month, SPARKLE (Senior Programs Aimed at Re-Kindling Lifetime Engagement), which is a collaboration of Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. and the Silver Spring Village, will sponsored a talk with Brigadier General McGee on Feb. 12 at the Buffalo Soldiers Great Hall. Brigadier General McGee, who turned 100 in December and lives in Bethesda, is the oldest living member of the Tuskegee Airmen. He flew 137 combat missions in World War II and went on to fly missions during the Korean War and in Vietnam. Over the past few weeks, he was honored at the Super Bowl in Miami and during the State of the Union presidential address.

Some brief details about those who are being honored in tributes, in addition to Brigadier General McGee, at the Silver Spring Civic Building:

  • John Henry Chaney: The current resident of Boyds was drafted into the Marines in World War II and was assigned to the 8th Field Regiment, which was attached to the 5th Marine Division. The 8th Field Regiment unit was formed after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order in 1941 requiring all branches of the military to accept people of color. Blacks had served in nearly every American conflict before then, but the Marine Corps was the last branch of the military to officially allow them into its ranks. During the war, Chaney, transported ammunition as part of an all-black unit. He witnessed the hoisting of the flag at Iwo Jima. On June 28, 2012, 368 former Montford Point Marines, including Chaney, received the Congressional Gold Medal for their part in desegregating the Marine Corps and the military as a whole.
  • Fred Cherry, Sr.: The retired Air Force Colonel lived in Silver Spring until his death at age 87 in 2016. On Oct. 25, 1965, his F-105 Thunderchief fighter bomber was shot down over North Vietnam. He ejected and subsequently captured, becoming the first and highest-ranking black officer to become a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He spent seven years as a POW before being released on Feb. 12, 1973. He retired from the Air Force in 1981, with his last assignment at the Defense Intelligence Agency. For his actions in Vietnam, he was awarded the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, the Meritorious Service Metal and the Outstanding Service to the Community Award from the Tuskegee Airmen.
  • James "Pat" Daugherty: The staff sargeant served in the only African-American infantry division to see action in Europe during World War II as part of the 92nd Infantry’s Italian Campaign. He received the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement and a Combat Infantryman Badge. After the war, he returned to Maryland. Mr. Daugherty became the first African American to serve as a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. He died at age 91 in 2015.
  • Justin Davis: A native of Gaithersburg who attended Magruder High School in Rockville, he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. He was a member of an elite unit the Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. He deployed to Afghanistan in February 2006. He was killed in action on June 25, 2006, in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, where he was part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • Lillian Fishburne: The Rockville resident made history by being the first African-American woman to attain the rank of rear admiral when she was promoted by President Bill Clinton in 1998. This followed her tenures as chief of the Command and Control Systems Support Division in Washington, D.C., and as commander of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station of the Eastern Pacific. She retired in 2001 with decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals and the Navy Achievement Medal.
  • Jeremiah Floyd: The current Bethesda resident served in the Air Force from 1951-68. After leaving the service, he earned a PhD from Northwestern University. He was a secondary school mathematics teacher for 11 years and principal for five. He is a retired associate director of the National School Board Association and formerly served on the Montgomery County Board of Education. Dr. Floyd currently serves as First Vice President of the Montgomery County NAACP.
  • Charles Frazier: The Germantown resident in 1944 graduated from Lincoln High School in Rockville, the County’s then-only black high school. He was immediately drafted and served in the 8th Field Regiment Unit, 5th Marine Division after training at Montford Point, N.C. The Montford Point Marines were the first blacks to serve in the Marine Corps. On Feb. 22, 1945, Mr. Frazier landed on Iwo Jima. The black unit at first was kept separate from the white Marines, but during battle, they all served together. On June 28, 2012, he was among the former Montford Point Marines to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
  • Gloria White Gardner: The Rockville resident was a neuropsychiatric nurse, serving in the Navy from 1960-63 at Bethesda Naval Hospital. She has more 35 years of experience working for federal executive agencies in Washington, D.C., and with national and state nonprofit organizations and faith-based institutions. As a contractor for the U.S. Department of Commerce Patent and Trademark Office, she investigated and resolved cases regarding complaints of discrimination.
  • Elwood Gray, Jr.: The Silver Spring resident served in Vietnam in the 101st Airborne Division from 1962-65. He went to serve as pastor of Peace in the Valley Baptist Church, as president of the Black Ministers Conference of Montgomery County, as president of the National Coalition of Prison Ministries and as a member of the alumni at the Howard University School of Divinity. Dr. Gray is the editor of “The Messenger,” a newsletter published by the National Coalition of Prison Ministries.
  • Otto Hamilton: A Vietnam veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy in 1969 to 1970, including an assignment on the USS Hickman County LST 825. His post-military career included 20 years as a printing services/mail desk supervisor for the Washington Post. In 1987, he was elected to the Takoma Park City Council. While in Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange and spent much of his life battling the health effects. He was a member of Rolling Thunder Maryland and for many years was among the volunteers who wash and maintain the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Mr. Hamilton died on March 10, 2012.
  • Arthur Holmes, Jr.: An Olney resident, Major General Holmes served almost four decades in the U.S. Army. A highly distinguished officer, the awards and decorations he earned included the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. He served in Vietnam in 1971. In 1991, he was inducted into the 1999 Ordinance Corps Hall of Fame. Major General Holmes later served for seven years on the Montgomery County Planning Board. For 10 years, he was director of the County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation.
  • Isiah Leggett: The former three-term Montgomery County Executive and current Burtonsville resident served as a captain in the Army, including an assignment in Vietnam in 1969. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Vietnam. He was the first African American to be elected to the Montgomery County Council, serving four terms starting in 1986. His colleagues elected him Council President three times. He introduced legislation that created the Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs in 2008 and he led the dedication of the County’s Vietnam War Memorial in May 2018.
  • Roscoe Nix: After serving in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, the future Civil Rights leader graduated from Howard University and settled in Montgomery County. A federal government employee, in 1974 he became the second African American elected to the Montgomery County Board of Education and railed against school segregation. He sought improved educational opportunities and early childhood initiatives. In 2001, he was inducted into the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame. Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring was named for him in 2006.Mr. Nix died at the age of 90 in 2012.
  • Vernon Ricks, Jr.: The Potomac resident served in the Air Force’s 341st Wing, Strategic Air Command, from 1961-65 as a missile technician and teletype/crypto specialist. He went on to work for Xerox, where he rose to become the manager of field services. Throughout his career, he devoted his time to serving as a mentor to young African Americans. Mr. Ricks was the first black elected municipal official in Montgomery County, serving as councilmember and mayor pro-term in the City of Takoma Park from 1972-82. He is a member of the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Georgetown, the oldest African American congregation in Washington, D.C., where he serves as chair of the Trustee Board.
  • William Smith, Jr.: The Silver Spring resident is a lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserves and is a Maryland State Senator. In 2019, Senator Smith deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, serving in Kabul, Afghanistan. Senator Smith is a graduate from the College of William and Mary, earned a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from William and Mary. Senator Smith was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in November 2014 and was appointed to the Maryland Senate in December 2016. He is a member of the Senate’s Legislative Black Caucus and in December 2019 was appointed chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
  • Charles Williams: He served in the U.S. Army as a Buffalo Soldier from Aug. 11, 1941, through Nov. 27, 1945, in the 15th Infantry. He was wounded while fighting in the D-Day Invasion of Normandy and was awarded a Purple Heart Medal. The Laytonsville native later worked for the U.S. Government Printing Office and the National Labor Relations Board. His family moved to Lyttonsville near Silver Spring—a community founded in 1853 by freed African-American Samuel Lytton. Mr. Williams died at the age of 95 in 2015.
  • Waverly “Woody” Woodson, Jr.: One of only two black members of an anti-aircraft officers’ training school, he was told before graduation that there were too many antiaircraft officers and was sent back to the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion for training as a medic. The battalion’s job was to set up explosive-rigged balloons to deter German planes. At a time when the military was still segregated by race, the balloon battalion was the only African American combat unit to land on Normandy on June 6, 1944. Mr. Woodson’s landing craft hit a mine on the way to Omaha Beach. Although wounded, he went on to spend 30 hours on the beach tending to other wounded men before eventually collapsing. Among the honors he received were the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal. Mr. Woodson went on to study medical technology and worked for 28 years at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Mr. Woodson, who lived in Clarksburg, died in 2005 at age 83.
  • William Zeigler: A Damascus native who still lives in that northern Montgomery community, he was drafted into the Army on Dec. 8, 1941—one day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor—and served through November 1945. He was a private first class in the 329th segregated unit that protected supplies needed on the front lines of Europe. His grandfather escaped slavery in South Carolina in the 1860s through the Underground Railroad. At age 25, Mr. Zeigler returned to Montgomery County and joined the NAACP. He worked as a youth director to help young African Americans and organized a Montgomery County group to attend the historic 1963 March on Washington. Mr. Zeigler, who founded an AMVETS chapter in Frederick, earned numerous honors, including induction into the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s thoughts on helping veterans can be found at https://tinyurl.com/rayyavu.

To see photos and bios of those honored and to learn more about the County Commission on Veterans Affairs, go to https://tinyurl.com/yxyfdcoc.

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Release ID: 20-050
Media Contact: Neil H. Greenberger 240-777-6532