Tulsa Woman Keeps Soldier's Legacy Alive

Monday, May 25th 2009, 10:26 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A Tulsa woman is celebrating Memorial Day by carrying on a soldier's legacy. He fought for the World War II soldiers left out of the history books.

His daughter is making sure his story gets told.

Vivian Clark Adams says her father embodied what it meant to be a soldier.

"I knew from the time I was very little that dad was a soldier cause he walked so straight and everything," said Vivian Clark Adams, Lieutenant Colonel Major Clark's daughter.

At a time, when most black soldiers did chores, not combat, Lieutenant Colonel Major Clark was part of a unit that served on the front lines in Europe.

He was a buffalo soldier, a member of the all black 92nd division.

Most of these all-black units were led by white officers, but Lieutenant Colonel Clark's unit, the 597th, was different.

"It was the only all-black unit in World War II that was commanded all the way through by a black officer," said Adams.

Clark fought bravely and was awarded a bronze star, but the army united by the Stars and Stripes was divided by black and white.

"In World War II there were no black Medal of Honor winners," said Adams.

Adams says her father fought for decades to right that wrong, providing evidence that blacks deserved this nation's highest military honor.

It took half a century, but in 1997, President Bill Clinton gave that honor to seven black soldiers, including Oklahoma's Reuben Rivers who died on the battlefield.

"My dad was recognized for his work by receiving an invitation to the White House for the ceremony," said Adams.

Lieutenant Colonel Clark didn't make it to the ceremony. His health was failing and he died two years later.

But his daughter wanted to make sure his story and the stories of the 597th didn't die with him.

So with the crack of a trunk lid, pieces of American history are coming to light.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is going to archive Clark's papers and photographs. And Oklahoma filmmakers are working on a documentary about Clark's life.

"It feels so good to finally get it out there. I want other people to know what he did and how hard he fought," said Adams. "And I want it to be an inspiration to people."

Lieutenant Colonel Clark was the troop historian, so he had scores of pictures and documents.

His daughter says he was the go-to historian for information on black soldiers.