We live in a world where fame and fortune often have little to do with character or accomplishment. Wesley Brown died Tuesday, most of us didn’t notice.
Wesley A. Brown, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who endured intense racial hazing to become the first black graduate of the United States Naval Academy, died Tuesday in Silver Spring, Md. He was 85.
It wasn’t easy the hazing and harassment had caused others to quit. Midshipman Brown hung in tough with a little help and support from a few supporters.
But unlike his predecessors, he said, Mr. Brown had the support of a handful of fellow midshipmen, who were friendly to him despite receiving threats from hostile classmates, and from the academy commandant, who intervened to protect him from excessive harassment.
“If not for that, I’m not sure I would have made it,” Mr. Brown told an interviewer.
One midshipman who visited his dorm room to talk and encouraged him to “hang in there,” Mr. Brown said, was Jimmy Carter, the future president, who was then an upperclassman and fellow member of the academy’s cross-country team.
In a speech last year at a Naval Academy event, Mr. Carter recalled Midshipman Brown as part of “my first personal experience with total integration.”
I can’t help but think that maybe Wesley Brown was a positive influence in Jimmy Carter’s taking up fighting social injustice.