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African-American Navy Bands of World War II
U.S. Navy B-1 Band

B-1 HISTORICAL MARKER INSTALLED IN CHAPEL HILL
May 27, 2017

76th Reunion Upcoming
B-1's 76th reunion will be in Charlotte, August 3 - 5.

Events include a Saturday night banquet at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, and on Sunday, worship services at St. Mark's, with a reception afterwards, and a public reception at the Levine Museum of the Modern South at 3 p.m. that will include a presentation on the band's history by Alex Albright.

Dr. Otto Harris, III, who is pastor at St. Mark's, is also the son of B-1 vet Otto Harris, Jr.

Calvin Morrow is the only B-1 vet able to attend this year's reunion. Simeon Holloway is staying home in Las Vegas this year, and Jewitt White in Gary, Indiana.

In Memoriam: Roy Lake
Roy Lake passed away peacefully on January 2, 2018 at his home in Silver Spring, MD. He was born May 6, 1923, in Jefferson, SC, the only child of William and Sadie Lake. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Geraldine Lake, their dauther, Winona Lake and their son, Michael Lake.

Roy Lake played clarinet and was a senior at Dudley High School in Greensboro when he enlisted in B-1. After World War II, he returned to Greensboro and graduated from North Carolina A and T, graduating cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering. In 1951, he began what became an exceptional career at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where he became the Chief of the Semi-conductor and Space Discharge Systems and Devices Divsion, the first time in the Patent Office's 125-year history that a person of color served in that capacity. He retired from the Patent Office in 1980.

Mr. Lake was not able to attend B-1's August 2017 reunion because of his declining health. Funeral services were held January 10, 2018, at John Wesley AME Zion Church in Washington DC and he was interred at Lincoln Cemetery.

Mr. Lake's passing leaves three living vets of B-1: Calvin Morrow, Simeon Holloway, and Jewitt White.

2017 B-1 Year in Review
November 12, 2017
B-1 honored by the U.S. Navy's band The Commodores during a performance in Winston-Salem, NC.

October 7, 2017
Bandsman Calvin Morrow was Grand Marshall for North Carolina A and T's homecoming parade, in Greensboro, NC

October 5, 2017
B-1 honored as part of the U.S. Navy's 242nd birthday celebration in Washington, DC. Bandsmen Simeon Hollowy, Calvin Morrow, and Jewitt White recorded their "happy birthday" greeting to the Navy during their visit to the Navy Yard in August.

Aug. 4-6, 2017, 75th Reunion of B-1, Washington, DC and Alexandria, VA
B-1 and three of its vets--Calvin Morrow, Simeon Holloway, and Jewitt White--were honored at several events in Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia during the band's 75th reunion, including the Alexandria, Va., Black History Museum, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, and Metropolitan AME Church. Bandsmen and families were also treated to a pre-opening and personally guided tour of the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History

May 27, 2017
B-1 HISTORICAL MARKER INSTALLED IN CHAPEL HILL
B-1's service and historical significance was commemorated with the installation on May 27 of a permanent historical marker. Nearly 200 attended the formal marker installation ceremony, at the intersection of West Franklin Street and South Roberson Street in Chapel Hill.

B-1 vets Calvin Morrow and Simeon Holloway were the stars of the day, and they had a strong supporting cast of friends and family who'd traveled from all over the United States for this special event. Special guests included Captain Kenneth Collins, Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy Band, Master Chief Derek Werner, band director of the Memphis Navy Band; Secretary Larry Hall of the NC Military and Veteran Affairs; Sen. Valerie Foushee, and a dozen other state and local elected officials.

Photo of Captain Collins (left) and Master Chief Werner with B-1 vets Simeon Holloway (second from left) and Calvin Morrow by Eddie Price, who has produced a beautiful scrapbook of the day's events.

B-1 was feted before the installation with a breakfast hosted by the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau and after the ceremony with a luncheon and reception afterwards at the Hargraves Center--which had served as their barracks during their Chapel Hill service. They marched daily from Hargraves to campus to play for the raising of colors for white cadets, who were housed at Alexander Hall; their route passed the spot where the marker was installed 75 years to the date after B-1 became the first African Americans to serve in the modern Navy at regular rank.

Josh Shaffer's excellent article in the News & Observer includes a montage of B-1 photos accompanied by a track from the Moonglowers' 1944 KGU show. The event attracted national media attention, including coverage by U.S. News and World Report; the Associated Press; the Westside Gazette in Ft. Lauderdale; the Fort Bend, Texas Herald; and Topix.USNavy.

A brief history of B-1
U.S. Navy B-1 was comprised of the first African Americans to serve at rank higher than messman in the modern Navy. B-1 was also the first of over a hundred bands of African-American musicians the Navy used during World War II at postings stateside and in the Pacific.

Formed from a nucleus of North Carolina A&T College students and graduates, the band was comprised of "the best, most talented musicians in North Carolina." Bandsmen trained at Norfolk and served at Chapel Hill with the Navy's pre-flight school from August 1942 to May 1944, when they were transferred to Manana Barracks at Pearl Harbor, the largest posting of African-American servicemen in the world.

In October 1945, the men of B-1 began mustering out, replaced at their Hawaiian barracks by a new band of African-Americans that included another North Carolinian, saxophonist John Coltrane.

The first 44 to join B-1 did not include the Carlson brothers, John and Walter, who were able to skip basic training and join up with their A&T buddies as replacements, after the band got to Chapel Hill. As many as four others did not complete re-assignment to Pearl Harbor, where four new members were added.

B-1 began holding biannual reunions about 1954, and in the 1980s these reunions became annual affairs.

B-1's history is told in the 2013 book The Forgotten First: B-1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy, which was written by the band's official historian, Alex Albright.

Archival records related to the band are housed in East Carolina University's Special Collections in Joyner Library.

Articles & videos about B-1:
Vintage video of B-1 performing during preflight graduation at Kenan Stadium in 1943.

Chantelle Statham's documentary on B-1
Watch it!

Miranda's "Tuesday Afternoon Thread: The Music of World War II--the Navy B-1 Band," May 28, 2013
Read it!

Leslie Barbour's short documentary on B-1's 65th reunion in Chapel Hill:
Watch it!

Muster list

Chronology

Gallery of Images:
Chapel Hill
Hawaii
post-World War II

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Chapel Hill Photos

U.S. Navy B-1 Band on the steps of their barracks in Chapel Hill.
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U.S. Navy B-1 parades in downtown Chapel Hill in August 1942.
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U.S. Navy B-1 Band plays while the American flag is raised at the UNC Pre-Flight School.
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U.S. Navy B-1's basketball team, in Chapel Hill.
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Bandleader James B. Parsons teaches trumpet to a Chapel Hill kid.
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Hawaii Photos

U.S. Navy B-1 Band parades in Hawaii.
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Bandsmen perform in Hawaii:
from left to right, Charles Woods, Thomas Gavin, Walter Carlson, Clarence Yourse
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post-World War II Photos

The first reunion of the B-1, in 1954, when members gathered again on the steps of their barracks.
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Charles Woods plays bass at the 1985 reunion while classmate/pianist Carl Foster of the Great Lakes Experience looks on.
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Lou Donaldson performs at the 1985 reunion. Donaldson, Foster, and Jehovah Guy were all N.C. A&T students who served at Great Lakes, but after the war, they returned to Greensboro where they formed, with several of their B-1 buddies, the Rhythm Vets.
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Abe Thurman plays trumpet at the 1985 reunion.
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Thomas "Buck" Gavin, in 1985 at a Rhythm Vets reunion in Greenville, NC.
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