Jenkins, Joseph Charles, LTJG

 Service Photo   Service Details
4 kb
View Time Line
Last Rank
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Last Primary Rate
OFF-USCG Officer
Last Rate Group
USCG Officer
Primary Unit
1945-1947, US Army/Army National Guard
Service Years
1942 - 1945
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Lieutenant Junior Grade

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Jenkins, Joseph Charles (1st African-American Coast Guard Officer), LTJG USCG(Ret).
Contact Info
Home Town
Detroit, Michigan
Last Address
Detroit, Michigan

Date of Passing
Jul 28, 1959
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Detroit-native Joseph Charles Jenkins has the distinction of being recognized as the Coast Guard’s first commissioned African-American officer when he was commissioned as an ensign in the Coast Guard Reserve and the first to graduate from Officer Candidate School at the Coast Guard Academy.

Born in 1914, Jenkins attended the University of Michigan, where he was the only African-American in the engineering department at the time. While there, Jenkins was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s first African-American Greek-letter fraternity.

After graduation, Jenkins became a highway design engineer for the state of Michigan, overseeing the construction of many Michigan highways. While working, Jenkins earned a graduate business administration degree from Wayne State University.

In the late 1930s, with the U.S. facing another world war, Jenkins helped organize what would become the 1279th Combat Engineer Battalion of the Michigan National Guard, which as the law stated at the time was a racially segregated unit.

In 1942, at 28 years old, Jenkins joined the Coast Guard as a boatswain’s mate 1st class but was quickly advanced to chief petty officer. His first assignment was to recruit other African-Americans in Michigan for the armed forces. By April 1943, Jenkins completed Reserve Officer’s Training Course at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., and received an officer’s commission.

Jenkins was one of three African-American officers to serve aboard the USS Sea Cloud, a weather patrol ship homeported in Boston and also the first racially integrated naval ship.

He served as the ship’s navigation officer and soon earned a promotion to lieutenant junior grade. The crew of the Sea Cloud not only conducted scientific missions but also patrolled the North Atlantic on convoy duty and encountered and losing a German submarine.

“As an African-American in today’s Coast Guard, I have no personal knowledge of the things Jenkins had to endure because of the sacrifices he made paving the way for us,” said Lt. Cmdr. Byron Hayes, the chief of the 9th Coast Guard District planning and contingency preparedness branch.

“Jenkins is a hero — not only for African-Americans in the military, but for anyone who fits into a minority role.”

After the success of integration aboard the Sea Cloud, several other ships integrated and many land units were close to follow.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which integrated the military and mandated equality of treatment and opportunity.

“The way African-Americans were treated in the military before the 1940s changed due to the success Jenkins had in the Coast Guard,” said Hayes.

In 1945, Jenkins left active duty in the Coast Guard and returned home to Michigan. There, he served in the African-American Engineering Unit of the Michigan National Guard until 1947, earning the rank of captain. Jenkins continued his career for the Michigan State Highway Department and was the assistant director of the Metropolitan Detroit area when he died in 1959. Jenkins was survived by his wife, Hertha, and three children. Jenkins is celebrated for not only leading the way for minorities in the military as the first African-American naval officer but as person who did not yield in the face of adversity.
Other Comments:
Not Specified
 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

 Duty Stations
<B>US Army</b>/<B>Army National Guard</b>CG Recruiting Offices
  1937-1942, US Army/Army National Guard
  1942-1943, BM, CG Recruiting Office Detroit Madison Heights, MI
  1943-1943, BM, US Coast Guard Academy New London, CT/Reserve Officer Candidate Indoctrination (ROCI)
  1945-1947, US Army/Army National Guard
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1939-1945 World War II
 Colleges Attended 
University of Michigan-Ann ArborWayne State University
  1932-1936, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  1936-1938, Wayne State University
Copyright Inc 2003-2011