Gorham L. Black, Jr. – Colonel, United States Army

Gorham L. Black, Jr., born October 22, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois, was the only son of the former Gorham L. Black, Sr. and Anna Mae Robinson. Gorham completed his elementary and secondary education in Chicago and attended Howard University! Washington, D. C., and the University of Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska.

On April 4, 1942, Gorham married the late Mabel Duke Slack in Chicago, Illinois. Gorham had earlier enlisted in the United States Army and was a Staff Sergeant in the U. S. Army Air Corps at Tuskegee, Alabama. The base was the home of the famous 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first black Air Corps unit organized in America. The unit later gained fame in aerial combat in the Italian Theatre of Operations during World War II.

After receiving his commission upon completing infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in September 1942, Gorham and Mabel were assigned to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, where their first son, Gorham, III was born in 1943. After serving as an Infantry officer during World War II, the family moved to Chicago where son Frederick was born in October, 1946. Daughter Barbara was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1950, two months after Gorham departed with his unit for combat duty in Korea. Together Gorham and Mabel moved 48 times during 27 years of service at various military installations at home and abroad.

In recognition of Gorham's military heroism and service, he was awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and numerous other U. S. and foreign awards and decorations.

In his last Army assignment as Chief of Staff for Personnel, Headquarters, Department of the Army, the Pentagon, Gorham had world-wide responsibility for the morale and welfare activities of all soldiers and their families. Gorham retired from the U. S. Army as a Colonel on August 1, 1968.

Immediately after his retirement, Gorham joined ARA Services in Philadelphia. As Vice President for the Community and School Food Services Division, he established and managed the corporation's program for providing lunches to the disadvantaged, elderly and school populations.

From 1971 to 1977, Gorham served as the Director of Region III of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He supervised more than 8,000 employees and had responsibility for administering the broad range of departmental programs and services annually costing over $10 billion in the Region's five states and the District of Columbia. After leaving federal service, he was a management consultant to a number of clients in the federal, educational and business sectors, while operating his own management consulting company.

In 1979, Gorham had the honor of being sworn in as the first Secretary of Aging for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Created to improve the delivery and effectiveness of services and programs for Pennsylvania's 2.2 million older persons, he brought to this new organization extensive administrative experience and an outstanding record of community involvement. Gorham retired from his position in September 1984.

In his newest “retirement” Gorham immersed himself in a number of civic and professional endeavors, including the American Association of Retired Persons {AARP). At the organization's 1992 biennial convention in San Antonio, Texas, Gorham was elected to a six year term on its board of directors. He was previously AARP's national secretary. Additionally, he served as Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Legislative Committee, AARP, and was a member of AARP's National Legislative Council.

Among Gorham's many professional and civic leadership positions, he was First-Vice President of the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUA); Co-Chairman of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc.; Secretary of the Board, Division for Social Ministry Organizations, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Vice President, Pennsylvania Council of Churches; and Treasurer, Crime Stoppers of Pennsylvania , Inc. Gorham served as a member of the 1981 White House Conference on Aging National Advisory Committee and the state's coordinator and leader of the 200 member Pennsylvania delegation to the conference.

His memberships included the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Frontiers International; Kappa Alpha Psi and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternities; the Locust Club of Philadelphia; the Prince Hall Affiliation of Masons; the Pennsylvania Department, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

Some of Gorham's many awards and recognitions include an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from Thiel College, Greenville, Pennsylvania; the Philadelphia Tribune Community Achievement Award; the Legion of Honor of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, Philadelphia; the Summit Award IV of Green Thumb, Inc.; Frontiers International Award for community service; Harrisburg Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Man of the Year Award: and the Mayor of Philadelphia's Service citation.

Gorham was an active member of Messiah Lutheran Church, where he served on a number of committees and in a variety of capacities. He and Mabel initially joined St. Peter Lutheran Church in Monrovia, Liberia in 1961 while serving as the Chief of the U.S. Military Mission to Liberia.

In addition to his three children, Gorham was also blessed with five grandchildren, all of whom he loved with the true love of an adoring father and grandfather, a love that was amply returned in kind by each. Gorham had a tremendous love of family and service, and a profound pride in the accomplishments of each. His family and many friends and associates were keenly aware that Gorham recently suffered the loss of his life-long friend, companion and wife –Mabel.

Gorham Louis Black, Jr. will be sorely missed by: Sons: Gorham, III and Frederick H. Daughter: Barbara B. Merritt. Grandchildren: Donna Lynne Black, Kimberly Anne Black, Douglas Alan Merritt, Jr.; Frederick Harold Black, Jr., and Shana Sloan Black
Daughters-in-law: Sylvia Sloan Black and Aster Yemesgen Black. Brother and Sister-in-law: Harrison R. Duke, Jr. and Blanche Wells Duke, Nephew: Harrison R. Duke, III Niece: Diane A Duke.

All of the thousands of men, women and children who were touched by simply knowing or working with Gorham as he passed through this world to answer the call of Jesus to lead him home on Sunday, January 3, 1993.


Mabel Duke Black, born April 7, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois was the first of two children born to Dr. Harrison R. Duke and Mabel Gaines Duke. Mabel completed her elementary and secondary education in Chicago and matriculated at Howard University, Washington, D. C. in 1939. She also enrolled in George Mason College, Chicago during the early war years where she majored in Physical Education. An accomplished swimmer, Mabel was invited to teach swimming at Howard while still a freshman student. She had tried out for the US Olympic swimming\team and was considered a promising candidate when the war clouds of WW II cancelled the event scheduled for the year 1940.

Mabel and Gorham married April 4, 1942 in Chicago when Gorham was Staff Sergeant in the U. S. Army Air Corps at Tuskegee, Alabama, the home of the famous 99th Pursuit Squadron, which was the first Black Air Corps unit to be organized in the Army, and later gained fame in aerial combat in the Italian Theatre of Operations.

After completing Infantry Officer Candidate School in September, 1942 Mabel and Gorham made their home at Fort Devens, Massachusetts where their first son, Gorham III was born in 1943. Son Frederick was born in Chicago in 1946 and in what was to be a record number of military moves around the world, Mabel was to provide a home for her family in the next 22 years at various overseas and stateside military assignments 48 times. Daughter Barbara was born in Japan, August 1950, two months after Gorham departed with his unit for combat duty in Korea.

As the wife of a career army officer, Mabel participated in the many volunteer positions in which some wives find satisfaction. She rendered services with groups ranging from Boy and Girl Scouts, youth activities, Church Chapel, counseling of younger wives regarding service traditions, and Officer Wives ‘Clubs. Mabel enjoyed the role of -hostess-diplomat functions- during-Gorham ‘ s assignment as Chief of the Military Mission to Liberia. In this role she often hosted events ranging in size from 100 to 500 persons at the Mission Residence, and fulfilled the requirement of memorizing every name on her guest list and a brief biographical sketch oft those guests who often were high ranking dignitaries from the us and other countries.

Gorham and Mabel joined the Lutheran Church in Liberia (St. Peter's) in 1961. Mabel assisted in the effort of the church to nurse and care for Liberian orphan children. Her compassion was amply demonstrated when she headed a food drive among us Agencies in Liberia for the benefit of those children.

Mabel continued her role as mother, wife, homemaker, volunteer and friend after Gorham retired from the Army and pursued several civilian careers including the private sector, the federal government and service as the first Secretary of Aging for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Mabel was especially proud of her record as having visited Senior Centers in all of the 67 counties during the first 1 and 1/2 years of Gorham's tenure in office.

She particularly appreciated visiting with the seniors in these locations and putting her considerable talents and experience gained as an Army wife to the use and benefit of older Pennsylvanians.


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