WASHINGTON (AP) — Gen. Michael E. Langley, the first African-American four-star general in Marine Corps history, praised his father for telling him to “aim high” and predicted his promotion Saturday will affect young people.
Langley was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up on a military base while his father served in the Air Force. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1985.
“My dad told me to aim high, so I aimed as high as I could and found the few and the proud,” Langley said at the ceremony at the Marine Corps barracks in Washington.
The Marine Corps, which dates back to 1775, did not admit blacks to its ranks until 1942, a shift that occurred after the 1941 attack on the US Air Force Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the United States’ entry into World War II.
The U.S. military did not desegregate until 1948, when President Harry Truman ordered it. Thirty years later, the first African-American Marine was promoted to one-star general in 1979.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced in June that President Joe Biden had nominated Langley for the general rank. The promotion comes with the appointment of the commander of U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany. The Senate confirmed his appointment on Monday.
“The milestone and what it means to the Marine Corps is very important,” Langley said at Saturday’s ceremony, according to a Marine Corps report. “Not because of a historical marker, but because it will affect the future, especially in the future. For young people in society who want to aspire and see the Marine Corps as an opportunity.”