Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

ALBION’S WORLD WAR I BLACK VETERANS

Albion Recorder, February 21, 2002, pg. 11

Some time ago I acquired one of those l-o-n-g panoramic photographs featuring a reunion of Albion’s World War soldiers. Dated August 7, 1919, this special photograph was taken in front of the Masonic Temple building on W. Center St. Albion celebrated “Victory Day” that day with numerous events to welcome back its returned servicemen. The photo features Albion veterans who had returned from serving in the “Great War,” and nearly all wore their uniforms for the photographer before they put on too much weight.

I have displayed this photograph at various locations over the past few years, and people have helped me place identities on some of the 232 soldiers and sailors who appear in it. Unfortunately, yours truly knows of no annodated copy where the names have been identified. Several families in town have this photo and can only identify their grandfather, where an “x” is placed next to his face. In 1962 in the Journal of Albion editor Rae Corliss printed this photograph, and declared “in this section I see so-and-so, and this person, etc.” but didn’t say in what row or where or what number a person was for proper identification.

Most of the men in this photograph lived their lives in Albion after the war and continued on with their businesses and occupations. Most were deceased by the end of the 1960s with a few exceptions. Our focus this week is upon the nine black World War I soldiers from Albion who appear in this photograph. Albion’s black veterans banded together after the war and formed a black American Legion post here called the Will Curtis Post No. 144 of the American Legion. Organizational papers were filed in Lansing in 1930 by William Moorehead, who served as the first commander. Succeeding him in the following years were William Barge, Alonzo Campbell, Rufus Simmons, and Calvin Smith. By mutual agreement, the Post was named after the first member of our local World War I black veterans to die, Will Curtis (1896-1930). Curtis was a native of Jeffersonville, Georgia, and was recruited to work at the Albion Malleable Iron Company in 1922. He died of pneumonia in 1930. The Legion subsequently purchased an available section of lots in Section 120 of Riverside Cemetery, where the majority of Albion’s World War I black veterans are interred.

From the Archives we present close-up shots of the two sections of this photograph in which Albion’s black World War I veterans appear. In the first section appear 6 black soldiers. The third has been identified as Clifton Ferguson (1887-1953), who was the husband of longtime Albion Public Schools teacher Ruth Ferguson. Three black soldiers appear in the second portion also illustrated here. The first person has been identified by some as Eddie Washington (1887-1948), and the second has been easily identified as William C. Tucker (1887-1947). The third black veteran is unidentified.

Does anyone know the identities of the rest? If our readers know the identifications of anyone in this photograph, I’ve placed my display board this week inside the Albion Volunteer Service Center where you can drop by and look at the photo and see if you can help identify people.


Albion’s black World War I veterans, 1


Albion’s black World War I veterans, 2

Next: PURPLE GANG CAR SEIZED HERE IN 1936


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