James Hair Oral History Available
James Edward Hair (1915-1992), whose father and grandparents were born slaves, grew up in the South and encountered more than his share of racial prejudice. His candid recounting of his life story includes the tragic lynching in 1935 of a brother-in-law who had been his mentor. In 1944 he was among the U.S. Navy’s first group of African-American officers, known as the Golden 13.
Hair enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and was serving as a quartermaster in a tugboat crew when he was selected for officer training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After his commissioning, he commanded the yard tug YTB-215, then joined the crew of the USS Mason (DE-529), a ship with an all-black enlisted crew and, until he came on board, all white officers. He later served as first lieutenant in the tank landing ship LST-1026.