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Proud to Celebrate the Achievements of 1964 Alumnus, Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg
From a buck private in a segregated Army to a three-star general, Lt. General Arthur J. Gregg (Ret.) ’64, recently achieved another historic first in his lifetime. On April 27, 2023, Gregg became the first African American man to have a United States military base named after him. He is also the only person in modern military history to have a fort named after him while still alive.
The U.S. Army recognized Gregg’s exceptional military service by redesignating an historic military base with his name. Fort Lee in Virginia, home to nearly 10,000 soldiers and originally named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was named Fort Gregg-Adams in honor of Lt. Gen. Gregg as well as Lt. Col. Charity Adams, the first female African American officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps in World War II. The ceremony can be viewed on the fort’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/armyfortlee (will later be www.facebook.com/fortgreggadams).
Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis attended the ceremony to personally congratulate Lt. Gen. Gregg for the distinguished honor on behalf of the College. “Lt. Gen. Gregg is tremendously deserving of this historic honor,” he said. “He epitomizes the Benedictine College Values and is an exemplary alumnus who emulates a lifelong commitment to greatness.”
Gregg came to Benedictine College (then St. Benedict’s College) as one of the first “Bootstrappers,” the group of military officers who participated in a government program allowing them to complete their college education. He graduated summa cum laude in December 1964 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.
He moved on to command the 96th Quartermaster Direct Support Battalion, one of the largest battalions in Vietnam, which received the Meritorious Unit Citation. His success in Vietnam propelled him to further advancement and eventually to the Army War College and the rank of Brigadier General. In 1977, he was elevated to Lieutenant General and became the Director of Logistics, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gregg has been highly decorated, receiving the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and many other awards. In 2016, the Army created the Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Gregg Sustainment Leadership Award in his honor.
While he believes that each individual has the freedom to choose to become bitter or better from the circumstances of their lives, perhaps his life uniquely demonstrates an earnest lifelong determination to be better.
“I always believed there were opportunities,” the now 94-year-old Gregg said in a recent interview with Army.mil. “And even though you realized they were limited by race to a large degree, they were still there. Frankly, I tended to dwell on the possibilities and not become bitter.”
Growing up in the South during the depression as a young African American, Gregg witnessed the injustice and inequity of segregation. The youngest of nine children, he may have developed his work ethic from his childhood on a small cotton and tobacco farm. He would have to feed hogs, chickens and cows before walking to his school, which was a modest three-room structure.
“The white children had a consolidated, very modern brick school and were provided with bus transportation from their homes,” said Gregg in the Army.mil interveiw. “It was a different situation based on race at that time.” Gregg’s mother passed away when he was 13 and he moved to Newport News, Virginia, with his older brother.
By 1941, Gregg was working two jobs and attending the segregated Huntington High School. While driving by Fort Monroe with his family, he was most impressed to see military troops who were black. Occasionally he saw black officers belonging to a military separated along color lines.
“They were only lieutenants, but you just had to be very proud of them – the fact that they were officers and the way they conducted themselves,” said Gregg.
Despite career aspirations of being a certified clinical laboratory technician that ended with discrimination limitations, he decided to take control of his destiny. At the age of 17, Gregg enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 with parental permission.
“Once I arrived, I was told that there were no medical facilities operated by the U.S. Army staffed with black soldiers. So, I could not get the job as a medical laboratory technician in Germany,” said Gregg.
What some might view as a consolation job, his transfer to a black unit at the 3511th Quartermaster Transportation Truck Company became the anchor for a stellar career in logistics. By the age of 18, he had already been promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. By 1949, when he was only 22, he completed officer candidate school.
When Second Lieutenant Gregg arrived at Fort Lee, home of the Quartermaster Corps, in 1950, his first assignment was to a segregated barracks, and he was required to sit in the black section of the post movie theatre. Later that year after he was married, the Greggs were moved to segregated housing off post. At that time, he was not allowed to enter the white’s only officers’ club.
Fast forward thirty-one years and, ironically, Lt. Gen. Gregg celebrated his retirement at Fort Lee in the same mansion-style officers’ club and on the parade grounds, where nearly 1,000 troops gave their final salutes to the man who went from a private to the highest-ranking black officer in the Army.
Gregg was known for having a “People First” philosophy long before it was a popular slogan. During his long career, he was a witness and an influencer to the sweeping social changes, particularly in the treatment of minorities in the military.
“I always enjoy doing jobs to the best of my ability,” Gregg told Army.mil, “but I also felt the Army was always watching my back and helping me along the way.”
Benedictine College President Minnis said, “Lt. General Gregg represents values like hard work, ethical behavior, and a focus on the important things in life. He is a role model of what it means to transform culture with one’s faithful attitude and determination.”
His perseverance and remarkable achievements in the face of prejudice are a hallmark of the character Benedictine College works to form in all of its students. Lt. General Gregg has earned his nation’s thanks and his alma-mater’s deep respect.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named in the Top 10 in the Midwest of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College has a mission to transform culture in America by educating men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.