A Step Forward
The passing of John Wesley Lee Jr. a few months ago serves as a reminder of his place in the history of the U.S. Navy. On 15 March 1947, one month to the day before Jackie Robinson became the first black player in baseball's major leagues, Lee became the first African American to be commissioned as a regular officer in the Navy, that is, no longer a reservist. Many citizens of this country made it clear that they did not welcome Robinson's arrival in baseball. He received numerous death threats and other pieces of hate mail. John Lee achieved his milestone without encountering hostility, and that was at least in part the result of how the Navy arranged things for him.