NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University recently unveiled a historical marker honoring alumnus and Medal of Honor recipient, Lt. William McBryar.
A number of lawmakers, military officials, and TSU officials attended a ceremony for the unveiling of the marker, which is located outside Kean Hall on the university’s main campus.
Among those attending the event were state Sen. Thelma Harper; state Rep. Dr. Rev.Harold Love, Jr.; former TSU President Dr. Melvin Johnson; former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; and Mr. Phil Ponder, a representative from the Office of U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper.
In her welcome, TSU President Glenda Glover called McBryar “a role model for all of us.”
“We’re pleased that we can recognize him as our own, and honor him in this manner,” Glover said following the event. “This unveiling is historical. There are so few African Americans who have made this type of achievement.”
Lt. Col. Paul Coakley, a U.S. Army veteran and president of the Nashville Chapter of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers, was the keynote speaker. He said he, and other soldiers, are where they are today because of soldiers like McBryar.
Lt. Col Paul Coakley, Nashville Chapter President National Association of Buffalo Soldiers, gives keynote address. (photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)
“They sacrificed … so that we can do what we do today,” Coakley said.
McBryar, a Buffalo Soldier, was posthumously honored at a special Veterans Day program at TSU last year. He was awarded America’s highest military decoration for his actions on March 7, 1890, during the Cherry Creek Campaign in the Arizona Territory. According to his citation, McBryar was distinguished for “coolness, bravery and marksmanship” while his 10th Cavalry troop was in pursuit of hostile Apache warriors.
Dating back to the Civil War, there have been 3,498 Medal of Honor recipients. Of that number, 90 are black – and Lt. McBryar is one of them.
“Medal of Honor recipients … are some of the most outstanding people in all of our nation’s history,” Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper said at the Veterans Day program. “I’m so proud that a TSU graduate received that medal.”
McBryar went on to serve with the 25th Infantry in the Spanish-American war and fought at El Caney, Cuba. He also saw action in the Philippine Insurrection before demobilizing in San Francisco.
In 1906, after leaving the military, McBryar moved to Greensboro, North Carolina as a civilian and there he married Sallie Waugh, a nurse. Three years later, he worked as a watchman at Arlington National Cemetery and as a military instructor at what is now Saint Paul’s College.
Portrait of Lt. William McBryar
In 1933, with a desire to complete his degree, McBryar attended Tennessee State Agricultural & Industrial College. He graduated the following year, at age 73, with an agriculture degree, finishing a college education that started at Saint Augustine’s University before he enlisted in the military.
McBryar went on to write for “The Bulletin,” a publication at Tennessee State, addressing issues related to social justice and developments in Germany.
In the May 1935 issue of the publication, McBryar writes in part:
“What is the nature of that human weakness which seeks justice for itself and denies it to others? What is it within us which causes us to shudder at cruelty in the brute creation and to accept it with complacency among human beings? Why is justice glorified for one race as the supreme good and denied to another? It is a mental conception of the human which cannot be explained.”
McBryar died in 1941 at the age of 80. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.