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“By age 11, Arthur J. Gregg had faced the Great Depression, Jim Crow laws and the passing of his mother.” That’s how Moira Cullings begins a remarkable article in The Leaven about a remarkable man.
The 95 year old alumnus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, is the only living person in U.S. history to have a military installation named after him — the Army’s Fort Gregg-Adams in Petersburg, Va.
“Benedictine College was a major part of my career and my story,” Gregg is quoted saying. “It gave me a critical credential to be successful in my career and in my life, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Benedictine College president Stephen Minnis pointed out that two Ravens were involved in the new Army Fort name. The order for the name-change was written by Lt. Col. Brian Carr a JAG officer in the Army as well as an alumnus of Benedictine College.
Minnis helped tell Gregg’s story in the Leaven article. “It is clear why he is the first Black three-star general in U.S. Army history and why he is so highly thought of that a fort was named after him,” Minnis told Cullings “General Gregg is the most gracious, hospitable, smartest, nicest gentleman I have ever met.”
Minnes explained that Gregg found Benedictine while attending Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 1963 and 1964. He helped create the Bootstrappers program during the Vietnam War so that officers at the Command and General Staff College could earn a bachelor’s degree.
“Arthur Gregg was in that first class of Bootstrappers, graduating summa cum laude in business [administration] in 1964,” said Minnis.
“I embraced that opportunity,” Gregg told Cullings. “I regarded all of my instructors as mentors … I felt that they were interested in me and interested in all of their students. And just by their example, I think it was a powerful influence — even for students in my category. I was then about 36 years old, and some of the instructors were even younger than I was.”
Gregg saw his family’s values in the school, he said. “I came to Benedictine College with the well-established history of working hard, doing my best, having respect for others, assisting others where I can and always showing proper respect,” he said, “and that was embedded in me from my childhood.”
Gregg was raised Methodist, but followed his father into the Catholic Church when he converted. “It was a great family,” Gregg told Cullins. “My father and mother were the very best in my opinion.” Gregg’s own late wife Charlene and daughers are pictured here.
“I have always found the Catholic faith was one that helped me to live my life better,” said Gregg. “It’s a very practical religion … It does not appeal a lot to the emotions, but to practical life experience. I’ve enjoyed my Catholic experience.”
Gregg’s story is the story of rising above discrimination. President Minnis told The Leaven about Gregg in 1950 as a newly commissioned officer assigned to Fort Lee.
“Although the Army was officially integrated in 1948,” said Minnis, “Gregg was not allowed in the whites-only Lee Officers Club at Fort Lee. This hurt his feelings tremendously as he thought he had earned the right as an officer to go into the officers club.”
Some 30 years later, Gregg’s retirement party was held in that very club, which is now called the Gregg-Adams Officers Club.
“He could have easily in 1950 harbored bitter thoughts,” Minnis is quoted saying, “but instead he just worked harder and achieved things only a handful of people have achieved — becoming a three-star general.”