JWG (jwg) wrote,

Sgt Clifton Merriman

Today I went to a special event at the Cambridge Post Office in honor of Sgt. Clifton Merriman. The Central Square Post Office building was named after him in 1992 (H.R. 5453 / Public Law 102–447) but this was a big splash event somewhat overdue. Merriman died in 1989 at the age of 95. He was a decorated hero in the WW I; in addition to several US awards he received a Croix de Guerre and a Medaille Militaire (rarely awarded to foreigners) from France. After returning from the war he worked for the Post Office for many years eventually rising in rank to be Assistant Postmaster. He was the first African American in the US to attain such a position and apparently it took the intervention of then Senator Kennedy to receive this appointment.

There was an honor guard of Army and National Guard personnel and PO veterans complete with bagpipes. Outside at the top of the ladder of a FD ladder truck was displayed a huge American Flag. Speakers included City Councillor Ken Reeves (the Mayor was out of town), a French govt representative, Charles Ogletree, and some members of his family. Several speakers pointed out the significance of Cliff being the first black postmaster many years ago in contrast to the current state where we have an African American Mayor, an African American Governor and soon an African American President. The kids from King Open School who sung some songs probably have little knowledge of what the situation was like. Cliff's grandson told a story of some school kids who looked in the post office and were so proud to see a black man behind the window who was selling money orders. Reeves remarked how odd it seems in today's environment to see that situation and think it an achievement.

Cliff lived on West St where I live and I knew him a little. He was a charming pleasant man who often stopped to chat with other neighbors when he walked down the street. My (now deceased) next door neighbor, Elmira Cheek, who was frequently sitting on her porch talking to people such as me was a good friend of his. The corner of West St and Inman St has a Sgt Clifton Merriman Square sign on it (the city council does a lot of those).
Tags: cambridge, merriman, nostalgia

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