Philly veteran seeks compensation from Army for 75-year-old race discrimination case

Cherri Gregg
November 11, 2019 - 8:02 am
In June of 2018, John E. James Jr. got his officers commission at the Museum of the American Revolution, 75 years after his graduation.

Courtesy of Marion Lane

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John E. James Fort Benning graduation photo
Courtesy of John E. James, Jr.
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Southwest Philadelphia man who got his officers commission from the U.S. Army — 75 years after the fact — is now seeking compensation. He says the commission had been held up because of discrimination.

John E. James Jr., who was a second leutenant in the Army for just about a year, was one of 21 men of color who finished officer training school in Fort Benning, Georgia, back in 1942. But the day before graduation, he says, "They called me in and they said they were not going to give me the commission."

He says race "definitely" played a part in it.

"I was 21, no more than 22," says James, who is now 99 years old.

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Dr. Marion Lane found her father's graduation photo in 2015, and he told her the story. She filed a DD149 form for correction of military records, and in June of last year, 75 years after he was supposed to graduate, James got his bars at the Museum of the American Revolution.

"It was really nice. It's unbelievable," James said.

"I'm very proud of him," Lane said.

Marion Lane and her father John E. James, Jr. hold his graduation photo
Courtesy of Marion Lane

The Army sent her dad about $2,000 in back pay last December, Lane said, but they are working with an attorney to use the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to get damages for race discrimination.

"The denial that my father received altered his life," she said. "It would be the final step in making amends to someone who was not fairly treated."

Lane says they applied for the compensaiton this year, and they are hoping to get it while James is still alive.

John E. James, Jr. poses for a photograph with his family
Courtesy of Marion Lane