Roscoe Conklin Cartwright
Brigadier General, United States Army
Sketch And Photo By Dorian Cartwright – January 2000
Courtesy of the Cartwright Website
Brigadier General Roscoe Conklin Cartwright, affectionately known as “Rock,” forged an impressive record during his 33 years of Army service. He overcame seemingly insurmountable barriers during his service, provided mentoring for young officers ascending through the military ranks and laid a roadmap that lives on today through his legacy.
Serving in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, General Cartwright became was the first black Field Artilleryman promoted to Brigadier General and would eventually serve in the Pentagon. In 1974, shortly after his retirement from active service, General Cartwright and his wife, Gloria, died in a commercial airplane crash while returning to their home outside of Washington, D.C.
Born May 27, 1919, in Kansas City, Kansas, General Cartwright spent his youth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With his sights originally set on a college education prior to the World War II draft, General Cartwright said, “I recall seeing very few blacks in uniform in Tulsa before World War II. Therefore, being or becoming a soldier did not interest me until the draft was initiated and they started the lottery in 1940.”
Thus, after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1936, he returned to Kansas to attend the Kansas State Teachers College. Unable to continue financing school during the Great Depression, General Cartwright entered the workforce with stints at the University of Tulsa and the Bubble-Up Bottling Company.
Any plans of returning to college were put on hold as General Cartwright was drafted into the Army in 1941 and assigned to the 349th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Exemplary of the segregated army at the time, all of the men enlisted in the 349th were black while all of the officers, except the chaplain, were white. Upon completion of Officers Candidate School in November 1942, General Cartwright was commissioned as Field Artillery Second Lieutenant in the 599th Field Artillery Battalion of the famed 92nd Infantry Division where he would remain throughout the war. He proudly led his men through the rigors of combat in Italy and, after the war, was promoted to First Lieutenant.
General Cartwright returned to his wife in the United States with intentions on returning to a civilian life and finishing college. While the 599th was temporarily stationed at Camp Robinson near Little Rock, Arkansas, he had met and married Gloria Lacefied who was from nearby Hope, Arkansas. However, as General Cartwright stated, “When I arrived in November, all the schools were full. So I decided to remain in the Army another year.” The Cartwright family, eventually including four children, would live not only in several US cities, but also in Germany, Korea and Japan as General Cartwright’s continued success in the Army would lead to a military career.
After a transfer into the “regular” Army, which was unprecedented for a black officer, General Cartwright was promoted to Captain and served a combat tour in Korea. Next, in 1954, was a promotion to Major and duty in Korea and Japan. He remained in Vietnam until 1971, when he became the third black promoted to Brigadier General after General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Awards during this time include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, National Defense Medal, Korean Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal among others honors and decorations.
In the meantime, the steadfast pursuit of a college degree was completed through a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State College in June 1960. Further studies included computer training and courses towards a Masters in Business Administration. Perhaps this vocation instilled a strong value in General Cartwright as he continually stressed education regardless of a military commitment. At West Virginia College, he taught Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for 3 years where he was posthumously inducted into their ROTC Hall of Fame in 1992. In Vietnam, General Cartwright installed an education and information office, created a library and initiated college courses taught by accredited teachers serving under his command.
Such leadership and determination could not be contained to the battlefields. General Cartwright applied his managerial and business skills to positions as Chief of the Management Division in Post Headquarters, Comptroller of the Seventh Army Training Center, Chief of the Budget and Five Year Defense Program, Comptroller Deputy Chief of Staff at the Army headquarters in Europe and comptroller duties at the Pentagon. He retired from the Army in 1974.
Another important duty was to nurture young officers in their ascendancy through the military ranks. To this end, General Cartwright was influential in shaping a loose network of black officers nicknamed the Blue Geese. On October 9, 1974, along with Colonel Robert B. Burke, General Cartwright led an initiative to formally organize the growing network into what became temporarily known as the No Name Club until they agreed on an official name. Shortly thereafter, on December 1st, the No Name Club was assembled to vote on a name when they received the news that General Cartwright and his wife had died in a plane crash that day.
Even his tragic death would not interrupt the spirit of nurturing and commitment embodied by General Cartwright as it became his legacy. The No Name Club soon voted to name itself The ROCKs, Inc. and establish the Roscoe C. Cartwright Scholarship Fund in their namesake’s honor. This influence spread far and wide in the military as The ROCKS, Inc. currently boast over a dozen affiliations and over 1200 worldwide members including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin L. Powell. One member, General Roy Bell, described General Cartwright as one who would “take you under his wing” and help young officers make important connections and choose the right path as he did when General Bell was a young officer.
Outside of the military, General Cartwright was a 33rd degree Prince Hall Mason. His former lodge in Oxen Hill, Maryland, is now known as the Roscoe C. Cartwright Prince Hall Masonic Lodge #129. Additionally, he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. which named him Alpha of the Year in 1971.
Besides the four children, his biological legacy
includes eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The gravesite
is located in Arlington National Cemetery near the John F. Kennedy gravesite.
DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: 27 May 1919, Kansas City, Kansas
YEARS OF ACTIVE COMMISSIONED SERVICE: Over 36
MILITARY SCHOOLS ATTENDED:
The Artillery School, School, Advanced Course
United States Army Command and Genera Staff College
Industrial College of the Armed Forces
MAJOR PERMANENT DUTY ASSIGNMENTS (last 10 Years):
August 1966-July 1968 Management Analyst, later Chief, Management Planning Division, later Chief, Research and Development Division, Office of the Director of Management, Office, Comptroller of the Army, Washington, D.C.
August 1968-June 1969 Student, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
August 1969-January 1970 Commanding Officer, 108th Artillery Group, United States Army Pacific – Vietnam
February 1970-July 1970 Deputy Commanding Officer, United States Army Support Command, Cam Renh Bay United States Army, Pacific – Vietnam
August 1970-July 1971 Chief, Budget and Five Year Defense Program, Coordination Division, Manpower and Forces Directorate, Officer of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, United States Army, Washington, D.C.
July 1971-November 1971 Special Assistant to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, United States Army, Washington, D.C.
November 1971-February 72 Director of Management, Review and Analysis, Officer, Comptroller of the Army, Washington, D.C.
February 1972-July 1973 Assistant Division Command, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Army, Europe.
August 1973-August 1974 Deputy Chief of Staff, Comptroller, United States Army, Europe and Seventh Army
PROMOTIONS DATES OF APPOINTMENT
US DECORATIONS AND BADGES:
She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 1, 1925, to Decatur Bishop Lacefield and Ethel Finley. As the youngest child in the family, she was able to tag along with her eldest sister Gwendolyn, and brother Decatur, who soon earned the nickname Brother. Growing up in the south, the Lacefield children attended Gibbs Elementary School and Dunbar High School, walking many miles past the then segregated Little Rock City Schools.
At a very early age, she met and married Roscoe "Rock" Cartwright, a young second lieutenant in the United States Army. As a 17-year-old bride, the school system didn't want her to continue attending public school with other young ladies her age. She fought their efforts to make her quit and won, going on to obtain her high school diploma and graduating with her class that spring. During those early years, she and her husband faced many trials and tribulations in what was then the segregated army. Having grown up in the south, she was well prepared to deal with the many indignities the two of them would encounter in the early years of their travels to various new assignments.
During the next eight years and many, many moves their four children, Roscoe Jr., Stanley, Phyllis and Cynthia were born. As a career officer's wife, she spent a lifetime packing and unpacking every three years, or so, as her household goods were shipped from city to city around the world. As she followed her soldier to each new assignment, there were many nights, weeks, months, and even years, that she had to do all the loving, nurturing, and disciplining, as both mother and father to her four children, while he was off on a temporary tour of duty, foreign conflict, or war. She also put aside any dreams to pursue a college degree or pursue any career aspirations she may have had.
Although home is always where your hat is, she finally was able to create a home of her own after a transfer to the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. By that time her three elder children had already gone off to college or homes of their own. A few years after being transferred to the D.C. area, she looked up one day and was home alone. Just barely in her forties, she had become an empty nester. Her last two children were in college and her husband was in Vietnam. What does a young, caring, nurturing woman do with all that extra time on her hands? Write to her children, visit her family, spend countless hours molding the minds of preschool-aged children, and wait. Wait for that special man. Hope and pray that he come home safely from the war.
It takes a very special woman to be able to support her man in a relationship that keeps them apart during holidays and important milestones in their lives, such as the birth of their sons, childhood illnesses, and those important adolescent years. But Gloria Lacefield Cartwright was a trooper and a survivor. She was also the bond that kept the family morally strong and pushed her husband on to greater rewards. She devoted her life to her husband, her children, and her extended family. She was the gracious hostess at cocktail parties or dinners that may have been planned with just a moment’s notice after a phone call from her husband. She always opened her home (wherever that may be) to friends, family, and visitors alike, which sometimes included top brass or visiting dignitaries like the Honorable Barbara Jordan, Representative (D TX).
In their years of traveling around the world, Gloria and Rock touched the lives of many people with whom they came in contact. The friends, of all ages, they developed over the years became a part of their extended family. This bond created a world-wide support network that others were able to tap into at any time. That network was also extended to the friends of their children and it was these friends who fondly bestowed the two of them with the nicknames the "General" and the "Duchess."
Gloria tried, as her Father had, to keep the Lacefield family history alive and visited her family whenever possible between moves. After over thirty years of packing and unpacking Gloria and her husband, Rock, finally retired from the military and settled once again in their Maryland home. Not to retire from life, but to start new careers.
They say behind every great man stands a great
woman. Gloria Cartwright was one of those great women. She was there supporting
each step her husband took, each assignment he accepted, each promotion
he received. She was there, standing beside him each time a new insignia
was pinned on his shoulders. She was there when he received his Bachelor's
and Master's degrees. She was there to encourage and support him as he
went off to World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam. She was there
when he was honored for one of his greatest accomplishments--as she pinned
those silver stars on his epaulets--becoming the second African-American
to receive the distinction of Brigadier General in the Unites States Army.
She was sitting in a seat of honor as she witnessed the Change of Command
Ceremony and attended his Retirement Ceremony. But she was also there beside
him when they took that last breath together. That cold, foggy, overcast
day in December as they were rushing home to Maryland after a week of giving
thanks and breaking bread with family and friends during the Thanksgiving
holidays. The day TWA Flight 514 crashed into the isolated mountain site
atop the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. That day fate took them both
away. That tragic Sunday in December.......she was only forty-nine. Gloria
Marie Lacefield Cartwright was truly a great lady! She was a kind and gentle
lady, a role model, a mentor, and friend to so many women--officer's wives,
friends, neighbors, aunts, nieces, cousins, sister, mother, and her daughters.
She was my Mother.
Everyone can relate to a situation in the past where a person or a group influenced the outcome of their future. In the case of some Black Army Officers struggling through the demands of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, it was General Roscoe C. Cartwright. At the time, General Cartwright was a student and member of the group that jokingly called itself the "Blue Geese." Blue Geese was a term for the method utilized at the college to pass special assignments to student officers.
The Black officers first started getting together informally, just to survive their time at Leavenworth. After their school ended, many found themselves based in or around Washington, DC. This enabled them to continue their loosely-formed organization. Military orders shuffled them in and out of the Washington area, but they kept the group going.
A meeting was planned for December 1, 1974,
with the express purpose of naming this group and making it a formal association.
The mentor of the group, General Roscoe (Rock) Cartwright, was planning
to attend the meeting after a visit to a daughter in Youngstown, Ohio.
His friends waiting back in D.C. were stunned to
This non-profit group presently provides scholarship
assistance for ROTC cadets in addition to the Cartwright scholarship.
They also provide professional interaction,
At 1110 e.g.t., December 1. 1974, Trans World Airlines, Inc., Flight 514, a Boeing 727-231, N54328, crashed about 25 nautical miles northwest of Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C. The accident occurred while the flight was descending for a W R/DME approach to runway 12 at Dulles in instrument meteorological conditions. The 92 occupants -- 85 passengers and 7 crewmembers were killed, and the aircraft was destroyed.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the crew's decision to descend to 1,800 feet before the aircraft had reached the approach segment where that minimum altitude applied. The crew's decision to descend was a result of inadequacies and lack of clarity in the air traffic control procedures which led to a misunderstanding on the part of the pilots and of the controllers regarding each other's responsibilities during operations in terminal areas under instrument meteorological conditions. Nevertheless, the examination of the plan view of the approach chart should have disclosed to the captain that a minimum altitude of 1,800 feet was not a safe altitude.
Contributing factors were: (1) The failure of the FAA to take timely action to resolve the confusion and misinterpretation of air traffic terminology although the Agency had been aware of the problem for several years; (2) the issuance of the approach clearance when the flight was 44 miles from the airport on an unpublished route without clearly defined minimum altitudes; and (3) inadequate depiction of altitude restrictions on the profile view of the approach chart for the VOR/DME approach to runway 12 at Dulles International Airport.
As a result of the accident the Safety Board
submitted 14 recommendations
The crew descended below minimum altitude during a runway 12 VOR/DME approach to Washington-Dulles. The aircraft struck high ground at 1800ft.
"The crew's decision to descend to 1800ft before the aircraft had reached the approach segment where that minimum altitude applied. The crew's decision to descend was a result of inadequacies and lack of clarity in the air traffic control procedures which led to a misunderstanding on the part of the pilots and of the controllers regarding each other's responsibilities during operations in terminal areas under instrument meteorological conditions. Nevertheless, the examination of the plan view of the approach chart should have disclosed to the captain that a minimum altitude of 1800ft was not a safe altitude.
Contributing factors were: 1) The failure of
the FAA to take timely action to resolve the confusion and misinterpretation
of air traffic terminology although the Agency had been aware of the problem
for several years; 2) The issuance of the approach clearance when the flight
was 44 miles from the airport on an unpublished route without clearly defined
minimum altitudes; and 3) Inadequate depiction of altitude restrictions
on the profile view of the approach chart for the VOR/DME approach to runway
12 at Dulles Int. Airport."
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 24 April 2004