WWII vet revisits his past with NAACP
by Paisley Boston
Nov 11, 2013 | 2417 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A young Elisha Langdon during WWII
A young Elisha Langdon during WWII
slideshow
World War II veteran and former Civil Rights worker Elisha Langdon Jr. is no stranger to adversity and triumph.

According to Langdon, his accolades far out weigh his struggles.

Langdon is an 86-year young veteran who feels that good deeds are the key to living a long happy life.

"I am from the old school, but I like the new school ways better. According to the Bible I have out lived my age. Three scores and ten is the average life span of a black man, according to the bible," said Langdon.

Langdon has been a prominent citizen of Ruleville, despite his adversities.

He lost his wife and son over eight years ago to cancer, both died two months apart, but through it all he still remains positive and he continues to serve his community, by sharing his experiences in World War II and the civil rights movement whenever he is called upon by various organizations such as church groups and civic affiliations.

He recently did a 30-minute segment on World War II and the Civil Rights movement for WABG in Greenville and he was featured in the "World War II Chronicles" magazine.

"If you do good things, the lord will be with you in the end. I am known from here all the way to Washington D.C.," he added.

Langdon was born in Kosciusko on April 17, 1927, to a teacher and the son of a former slave.

"I was born three days after the Mississippi river flooded the Delta. Anyone who knew my mama would say how mean she was. She carried around a gun and a switchblade until the day that she died.

"She was educated and tough. Mama use to tell people, 'You better try to keep me cool.' Mama would always tells us to follow in the footsteps of daddy because he was well-educated and humble," said Langdon.

He grew up in Carthage on his father's land and he was the eldest of 12 children.

Langdon attended Harmony Vocational High School while in grades first through tenth but he graduated from Alcorn College High School in 1945.

Shortly after he attended high school, Langdon was drafted into the Armed Forces where he served in World War II from 1945 to 1947.

While serving in the Armed Forces, Langdon was actively involved in a race riot between black and white soldiers in Japan.

The race riot occurred in Japan in the summer of 1946.

After approximately two months in the Signal Corps, the Army disbanded the only Black Signal Corps Unit in Japan.

"The army kept all of the White Signal Corps Unit," said Langdon. "The Signal Corps Unit was a unit that dealt with communication. This is a vocation within itself. The Army did not want black soldiers to learn this vocation because it would help them back in civilian life to make a living."

According to Langdon, this was the first time that he had experienced discrimination overseas.

"When I was in World War II, I found out that every race had an insulting nickname, and I got a chance to hear just about everyone of them," he added.

"I along with five other soldiers wrote a letter of protest to our company commander, General MacArthur, USA President Harry S. Truman, and the Defense Department. In the letter, we informed them that there would be race riots if armed services were not integrated," he added.

The letter of protest was signed by all six of the clerk typists.

Three years after Langdon and five other soldiers wrote the letter; President Truman authorized all armed forces to integrate under executive order #9981.

"We did not receive a reply, but I like to think that we had great influence over Truman's decision. I must say that a lot of progress has been made in the Armed Services for black men and women since World War II," said Langdon.

Although Langdon was shipped off to serve his country at a very young age, he later returned to Alcorn State College and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Vocational Agriculture in 1951.

While attending Alcorn State College he played basketball and became a charter member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

"In my day I played basketball and there was no such thing as traveling because the basketball court did not have insulation, therefore, it sweated badly," he added.

At age 24, Langdon decided to move to the Delta in hopes of finding work, but according to him, he was a bit skeptical about the move because his father had warned him about strong racial inequality in the Delta.

"Hill folks are better than Delta folks. My daddy warned me not to move to the Mississippi Delta because according to him, I was not accustomed to saying yes sir and no sir. This was before the Emmitt Till incident occurred. At this time, I had served as a sergeant in the Armed Forces and I had graduated from Alcorn State College," he added.

Despite his father's advice, Langdon moved to the Delta and pursued a career in education at Ruleville Junior High School in 1951 and he later became the first certified Vocational Agriculture teacher at Ruleville Central High School.

Although teachers were forbidden to join the fight for civil rights, Langdon did so secretly.

"As a schoolteacher, we had to do a sworn avadavat. On the avadavat, we had to list organizations and affiliations that we were associated with. Most of the time we only listed church affiliations," said Langdon.

According to Langdon, he got a chance to meet civil rights leaders from all over the state.

"Fannie Lou Hamer lived in a wood framed house near me. She use to come over and sometimes use our phone and typewriter," added Langdon.

After working in the school district for 15 years, Langdon went on to become the first African American to be employed with the Farmers Home Administration in Tunica and he aided in the integration of Farmers Home Administration.

"There were 17 applicants but I was chosen. They investigated me thoroughly. They even looked at the number of arrests that I had. I served in over seven southern states under a two-year contract. After the second year, the company broke the law by asking me to come back for a third year because they were so pleased with my work," said Langdon.

In his third year, he was transferred to Claiborne County, where he aided in integrating the county.

"I really did not want to move, but Farmers Home promised that if I worked there, they would make sure that they found me a home that was close to Ruleville after working there for one year. The civil rights folks were marching down there and had the entire county boycotting.

"The Black Panthers were very dominant during this time. The Black Panthers and Ku Klux Klan were some bad jokers," said Langdon.

He was later transferred to Coahoma County where he served as the first African American to work for Farmers Home Administration in Clarksdale.

He received an award for his Outstanding Accomplishments in Coahoma from the Farmers Home Association, and he was later appointed to the position of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Counselor.

"I was appointed to this position by Farmers Home Administration in Washington D.C. I dealt with all sorts of discrimination cases, some of them ended up in court and some of them were simply handled over the phone," said Langdon. "I did not get all of these accomplishment by being no punk. I stood tall in my decision-making and I did not care who tried to challenge me. My success is partially attributed to the fact that when I talk to people I look them straight in the eyes when I talk to them. A lot of folks tell the truth and back down but I tell the truth and stand tall."

According to Langdon, while working for Farmers Home Administration, he was also privately working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"I was part of the civil rights movement in my own way. My manager would often tell me, 'Langdon I don't care if those civil rights workers are doing something for you, you don't get involved.' Although he told me this, I made it my business to say, 'Y'all got a nut in here now and I am going to do what is right by the whites and blacks,'" he added.

He truly loved his job with Farmers Home Administration, but he worked under a very limited contract.

He returned to the educational realm in the Cleveland School District in 1984 and worked for several years.

He was later presented with the Apple Plaque Award for 22 years of dedicated Education Service.

Langdon currently lives in Ruleville on Elisha Langdon and Everette Langdon Street, which was named after he and his wife in 2005 for their 23 years of service with the Beautification Club.

He serves as a historian for the Fannie Lou Hamer Museum in Ruleville, and he has donated a large amount of memorabilia to the museum.

Langdon is currently the only African American World War II Veteran in the town of Ruleville.