Interview with Charles Epps

Dean Epps what was your reaction to some of the students who wanted to abolish the ROTC program at Howard University in '67, '68?


Well, when the students wanted to abolish the ROTC program in the, in the late '60s, that is around '67, '68, I felt it was an unfortunate, ah, action on their part for several reasons. First of all, ROTC traditionally had been the best means by which Blacks had been able to enter the Officers Corp in the Army and in the Air force, ah, to some extent in the Navy, where there were schools that had Naval programs. Because as a child I remember very well in World War II, Blacks were, ah, allowed only to be in the Quartermaster Corp in the Army. They were stewards in the Navy and, ah, there, as far as I recall, there were none in the Marines. And, ah, there were no, no pilots in the, ah, in the Air force except for those that were in the 99th and those divisions that trained in, in Tuskegee, but, ah, Blacks who obtained, ah, Second Lieutenants Commission through the ROTC units in the Black colleges had an entree into the Officers Corp in the military. And in fact in my own class which was the class of '51, I can think of at least two men immediately who became Generals, ah, and they went into Service in '51 and continued, Oh, for 20 years or more but they rose through the ranks to the, to become Generals. Now, this would have been possible only through, ah, Annapolis or West Point, ah, where, of course, the opportunities were limited. But many men were able to, ah, achieve officer rank through the colleges where there were ROTC programs. So I think that, that was a very short sighted, ah, ah, ah, effort on their part. And, but it's un- understandable in view of the tenor of the times.