VMI Will March in Inaugural Parade

One of my readers has informed me that the Virginia Military Institute’s entire Corps of cadets will march in Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.  Why is this significant?  The Corps, along with Thomas J. Jackson were present at the execution of John Brown in 1859.  Most notably, the Corps took part in the Battle of New Market in 1864, in a war whose purpose was the perpetuation of slavery and white supremacy.  Even as other military schools transitioned to admitting African Americans into their programs, VMI remained steadfast in refusing to do so until 1968.  Perhaps it’s just another sign of how far we’ve come as a nation.

7 comments… add one
  • Jeffrey L Minch VMI '73 Jan 20, 2009 @ 17:57

    The first black cadet to graduate from VMI was in ’72. He matriculated in ’68. I think it was Harry Gore ’72 and he was a hell of a guy. VMI was no more or less racist than any other southern school of its times. Those were the times. Segregation was clearly not right but it took time for institutions like that to change. VMI later admitted women — now that was really a mistake! LOL Just kidding!

    VMI is built up on top of a hill and VMI men like to say: “VMI — built on a bluff and operated on the same principle.” or “VMI always about 20 years behind the times.”

    Funny thing about those days was that it was easy as pie to integrate. Every Rat got his head shaved on the first day and it was easy for everybody to be equal — equally miserable. It is a great meritocracy where everybody earns their way with no advantage given or taken.

    The times have changed but one thing has not.

    VMI continues to provide citizen-soldiers to serve our Nation in times of war and peace. They serve ably and they have left a remarkable record of achievement in the military and in civilian life. Graduating from VMI has been a singular honor in my life and it has paid huge dividends. I never fail to tell someone that I went to VMI and have anything other than a respectful appreciation of what that means.

    I watched the Keydets march in the Inaugural today. They were the last unit to march and they looked great. I marched in the ’73 Nixon Inaugural. It was quite an adventure as the Counter Inaurugal was going on on the Mall and our buses were parked next to the Mall. A good time was had by all!

    Good luck and Godspeed to our new Commander in Chief. I wonder who taught him to salute? He did OK for a guy who never wore a uniform but then it isn’t rocket science is it?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2009 @ 2:23


      Thanks for the comment. I certainly did not mean to imply that VMI is a racist institution. The post was based on some reading that I did and I take full responsibility if there are any factual mistakes.

  • Michael Wallace Dec 12, 2008 @ 9:52

    Wow, way to cherry pick history. VMI did do all of the things that you describe above, but VMI has also produced citizen-soldiers that have selflessly answered their nations call since 1839.
    Perhaps they asked VMI to march in the inaugural parade due to graduates like Jonathan Daniels, a Civil Rights Hero who was killed protecting black teenagers in Alabama in 1965. Or perhaps it is to honor graduates, like Maj Paul Syverson, Maj Tom Miller and others who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    You seem to want to portray all sides of an issue; believe you missed it on this one.
    And yes, I am a proud VMI graduate.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2008 @ 9:58

      Thanks so much for the comment, but I don’t think I was “cherry picking” history at all. I’m not sure why you are upset with my post; after all, I was complimenting the decision of the school to take part. I think it’s wonderful news.

      • Michael Wallace Dec 13, 2008 @ 13:51

        This will be the 13th Inaugural Parade that VMI has marched since 1909. VMI marches in these parades to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia and to respect the incoming Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces.

        I’m not upset, but disappointed that you have made general sweeping statements and equated the Virginia Military Institute, her cadets and graduates as “White Supremacists” for their participation in the Civil War and its failure to integrate quickly enough.

        I’m curious to know what source or sources you used for your statement that VMI was one of the last military schools that transitioned to admitting black cadets. VMI is not a federal military academy but it does have a chain-of-command that includes the Governor of Virginia as the Commander-in-Chief of Virginia forces and a Board of Visitors. If VMI did not integrate until 1968, you should blame the elected and appointed officials, not the school.

        I’m also distressed to see people, especially historians, applying modern morality and thought to analyze and characterize decisions made in the past. That is part of what makes history unique – understanding why people made the decisions they did and their consequences.

        I look forward to your talk tomorrow in Fredericksburg and further discussing this topic if you would like.

        • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2008 @ 13:55

          Michael, — It was nice meeting you today in Fredericksburg. I appreciate the correction re: the number of times the Institute has taken part in inaugural parades. Once again, I am not quite sure why you seem so upset with my comments. They were not meant in any way to cast the school in some kind of racist shadow and at no point did I describe the members of the school as “white supremacists”. What I did say is that they fought for a nation whose stated goal in its own constitution was the perpetuation of race and white supremacy. I didn’t make that up. Finally, without any specific references to historians who are “applying modern morality” it is impossible for me to comment.

          Once again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

        • Joseph Smith Jan 5, 2013 @ 16:15

          My comments below are in reference to your statement below in quotes.

          “I’m also distressed to see people, especially historians, applying modern morality and thought to analyze and characterize decisions made in the past. That is part of what makes history unique – understanding why people made the decisions they did and their consequences.”

          There is no such thing as “modern morality.” It does not matter if people are discussing history or other points of law from the past or present. People in the 1700 and 1800 knew the difference between right and wrong. White people would not have wanted to be treated as a slave so why would they think blacks would not mine being treated differently.

          People knew back then that rape, robbery, assault, battery, theft, burglary, child molestation, and murder was wrong then and they know it is wrong today. The decisions southern and some northern white people made in the past regarding slavery was wrong then and it is wrong today. It’s like the Nazis killing the jews in WWII and people like yourself try to justify their crimes. That is exactly why the U.S.Civil War and WWII were fought.

          People in the past and present knew one thing, that is, if you want to be treated with respect and fairness then you must treat others with respect and fairness. Do un to others as you would have others do un to you. Fair is fair, right is right, and wrong is wrong. People make choices and decisions. Some make the right ones and others make the wrong ones.

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