- Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Berton Lewis died Tuesday in Chandler, OK.
- He was the African-American to join the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
- Sgt. Lewis joined the guard in 1958.
The first African American to join the Oklahoma Army National Guard died Tuesday.
The guard announced the death Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Berton Lewis, who joined the guard in 1958, in a press release. The release said Maj. Gen. Robbie Asher, the adjutant general for Oklahoma said, “Lewis was instrumental in bringing about critically important change in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.”
Asher went on to say Lewis earned respect quickly among his colleagues as a World War II veteran.
“We are a better organization today because he answered the call and paved the way for others,” he said.
In remembrance, the guard re-published a story about Lewis written by the command historian in 2012.
The piece described Lewis’ hesitation to join the guard as integration in Oklahoma was new. He recruited 16 more black soliders, including one who later became a battery commander.
Lewis served in the 92nd Infantry Division in WWII, but decided not to reenlist after meeting his wife, Inetta.
He retired to Chandler with his wife.