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Olney man part of county tribute in celebration of Black History Month –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Olney resident Arthur Holmes Jr. is among 19 military service members and veterans honored as part of Montgomery County’s celebration of Black History Month.

The county Commission on Veterans Affairs is honoring them with tributes throughout this month in Buffalo Soldiers Great Hall at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

Holmes, 88, was humbled by being included in the display.

“I am very flattered and it is an honor,” he said. “I am very proud of my service. I joined the Army and stayed for 35 years because I thought it was important. I always did the very best job I could.”

Holmes had planned to visit the exhibit with his wife and grandchildren, he told The Greater Olney News at press time.

In addition to Holmes, the service members and veterans featured in the tribute include:

John Henry Chaney of Boyds, who witnessed the hoisting of the flag on Iwo Jima and was one of 368 former Montford Point Marines who received the Congressional Gold Medal for their part in desegregating the Marine Corps and the military as a whole;

Fred Cherry Sr., who had lived in Silver Spring until his death at age 87 in 2016, was the first and highest ranking black officer to become a prisoner of war in Vietnam after his fighter bomber was shot down over North Vietnam;

James “Pat” Daugherty, the first African American to serve as a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, who died at age 91 in 2015;

Justin Davis, a native of Gaithersburg and a graduate of Col. Zadok Magruder High School, was killed in action on June 25, 2006, in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, where he was part of Operation Enduring Freedom;

Lillian Fishburne of Rockville, the first African-American woman to attain the rank of rear admiral when she was promoted by President Bill Clinton in 1998;

Jeremiah Floyd of Bethesda, who had served on the Montgomery County Board of Education and serves as first vice president of the Montgomery County NAACP;

Charles Frazier of Germantown, who graduated in 1944 from Lincoln High School in Rockville, the county’s only black high school at the time;

Gloria White Gardner of Rockville, who has more than 35 years of experience working for federal executive agencies in Washington, D.C., and with national and state nonprofit organizations and faith-based institutions;

Elwood Gray Jr. of Silver Spring, who is the editor of “The Messenger,” a newsletter published by the National Coalition of Prison Ministries;

Otto Hamilton, a former member of the Takoma Park City Council who died in 2012;

Isiah Leggett of Burtonsville, the former three-term county executive who introduced legislation that created the Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs in 2008 and led the dedication of the county’s Vietnam War Memorial in May 2018;

Charles McGee of Bethesda, who turned 100 on Dec. 7, served with the Tuskegee Airmen and recently received an honorary promotion to brigadier general;

Roscoe Nix Jr., who became the second African American elected to the Montgomery County Board of Education, was a member of the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame. Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring is named for him. He died at age 90 in 2012;

Vernon Ricks Jr. of Potomac, was the first black elected to a municipal office in Montgomery County, serving as councilman and mayor pro-term in the City of Takoma Park from 1972 to 1982;

William Smith Jr. of Silver Spring, a Maryland state senator (D-Dist. 20) who is a lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserves;

Charles Williams, a Laytonsville native who served as a Buffalo Solder and received a Purple Heart, died at age 95 in 2015;

Waverly “Woody” Woodson Jr. of Clarksburg, who received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal, died at age 83 in 2005;

William Zeigler, a native of Damascus who is a member of the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame.

“Every veteran who has served in the history of the U.S. military has their own unique story,” Dan Bullis, chair of the county’s Commission on Veterans Affairs, says in a press release. “It is the intent of our commission to allow residents to learn more about these remarkable people. The 14 we are honoring during Black History Month all have stories that the people of this county should know.”

Holmes began his military career as a member of a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in college.

In June 1952, upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Filling a variety of roles, Holmes served twice as a maintenance battalion commander, the second in Vietnam; was a member of the Guidance and Procedures Branch of the Logistics Directorate for the Joint Chiefs of Staff; served as chief of the Ordinance Branch of the Officer Personnel Director at the U.S. Army Military Personnel Center before becoming commander of the Division Support Command for the First Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Riley, Kansas; and subsequently served as assistant division commander-support for the same unit, the first Combat Service Support officer to fill the position.

Holmes then made history, becoming the first combat service support officer to serve as executive officer to the Secretary of the Army from 1977 to 1979.

Holmes’ final post before retiring in 1987 was that of commanding general, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command, where he oversaw the delivery of 30,000 tactical vehicles to the field with the highest level of user satisfaction yet achieved.

A highly distinguished officer, Maj. Gen. Holmes received awards and decorations, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal and Distinguished Service Medal. In 1991, he was inducted into the 1999 Ordinance Corps Hall of Fame.

Holmes later served for seven years on the Montgomery County Planning Board as commissioner, vice chair and chairman, and then for 10 years as director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation.


    The Silver Spring Civic Building is located at One Veterans Place in Downtown Silver Spring. The main room of the building was dedicated in 2018 as Buffalo Soldiers Great Hall to pay tribute to the unit that was formed by Congressional legislation in the 1860s to allow African Americans to enlist in the United States military.

    For more on the Montgomery Commission on Veterans Affairs, go to https://tinyurl.com/yxyfdcoc.

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