The first African American four-star general in Marine Corps history, Gen. Michael E. Langley, credited his father with telling him to “aim high” and predicted that his promotion on Saturday would have an impact on younger people.
Langley was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up at military bases as his father served in the Air Force. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marines in 1985.
“My daddy told me to aim high, so I aimed as high as I could and found the few and the proud,” Langley said during a ceremony at Marine Corps Barracks Washington attended by his father and other family members.
The Marine Corps, which traces its roots to 1775, rejected accepting Black men in its ranks until 1942, a turnabout that followed the attack on the American air base at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the U.S. entry into World War II.
The American military services were not desegregated until after President Harry Truman’s order in 1948. Three decades later, the first African American Marine was promoted to one-star general, in 1979.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in June that President Joe Biden had nominated Langley for appointment to the grade of general. The promotion came with the assignment of 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 Corps is quite essential,” Langley said during Saturday’s ceremony, according to a Marine Corps report. “Not because the mark in history, but what it will affect going forward, especially for those younger across society that want to aspire and look at the Marine Corps as an opportunity.”