WASHINGTON (AP) — The first African-American four-star general in the history of the Marine Corps, General Michael E. Langley, credited his father for telling him to “aim high” and predicted that his promotion on Saturday would have an impact on younger people.
Langley was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up on military bases while his father served in the Air Force. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marines in 1985.
“My father told me to aim high, so I aimed as high as I could and found the few and the proud,” Langley said at a ceremony at the Marine Corps Barracks Washington attended by his father and other family members.
Dating back to 1775, the Marine Corps refused to accept black men into its ranks until 1942, a turning point that followed the 1941 attack on the US Air Force base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the US’s entry into World War II. .
U.S. military services were not desegregated until President Harry Truman’s command in 1948. Three decades later, the first African-American Marine was promoted to one-star general, in 1979.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in June that President Joe Biden had nominated Langley for general election. The promotion came with the assignment of Commander of US Africa Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany. The Senate confirmed his nomination Monday.
“The milestone and what it means for the Corps is quite vital,” Langley said at Saturday’s ceremony, according to a report from the Marine Corps. “Not because of the mark in history, but what it will affect in the future, especially for those younger in society who want to strive and see the Marine Corps as an opportunity.”