Posted on | November 7, 2009 | 1 Comment
Flipper was the first African American cadet to graduate from United States Military Academy at West Point. Throughout his military career he faced racism and bigotry. He set many firsts during his career, including being the first non-white to lead a troupe of soldiers. Every time he was given a chance to lead in the military he did it successfully. Everyone who saw his work and knew him, praised him for his total competence.
He had a wonderful relationship with his commanding officer Nicholas M. Nolan. Nolan allowed Flipper to dine with the other officers and took a stand for Flipper that he be treated the same as all of the other officers.
After Nolan was reassigned, William Rufus Shafter was assigned to be Flipper’s commanding officer. While no direct proof exists, it is believed that Shafter set up Flipper for an embezzlement charge. While Flipper beat the rap at trial, he lost on the lesser charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. He was thrown out of the army because of this conviction. He appealed to then President Chester A. Arthur to reinstate his commission on the grounds that his sentence was too harsh for his conviction and that similarly situated white officers were not discharged from the army for the same conviction. Arthur denied Flipper’s request for a pardon.
In the 1970s, prominent lawyers in the United States decided that Flipper deserved to be pardon for this nonsense and that our nation should undo the past wrongs of clear racism and bigotry. As lawyers do, they lobbied and applied for a pardon.
Eventually, Clinton granted Flipper a full pardon on all the charges. Due to Burdick v. United States, 236 U.S. 79 (1915), and the holding that a pardon is not a pardon unless the pardonee accepts the pardon, people argue that the Flipper is invalid because he had been dead for 59 years when Clinton pardoned him in 1999. No group to this point has challenged the pardon, and since the federal constitution gives the President of the United States the authority to pardon, it would seem like Clinton overruled Burdick in Flipper’s case. Seems like Clinton got one right. Time will tell.