MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Veterans Day is filled with honor and reflection, and this year WREG reflects on retired Major Tobbie Ingram of Memphis, who was a trailblazer in the United States military.
Like so many others in the U.S. military, Major Ingram’s love of uniform, love of country, and his desire to serve started when he was just a child in Memphis.
“I was born during the period of World War II and every time I’d go to the movies there were always pictures of the war,” Ingram said. “So, I developed a very keen interest in the military.”
That keen interest in the military also started when he was in the Boy Scouts performing military drills and after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he knew his calling would be to enlist in the U.S. Army.
“I stayed in for 20 years,” Ingram said. “I started off as a private to retired as a major.”
Ingram helped pave the way for other Black soldiers. He was the first African-American to serve in the Army in several key positions including the following:
- The first African-American military police chose to attend the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Germany
- The first African-American provost marshal assigned to the Lexington-Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky
- The first black provost marshal assigned to the Milan Army Ammunition Depot in Tennessee
- The first African-American selected to attend the Infantry’s Officer Candidate School in Germany
- The first African-American military police assigned to 202 MP Company in France.
“I didn’t take it as being the first African-American,” Ingram said. “I took it as being part of my progression in the military.”
Part of Ingram’s progression came during the Vietnam War.
“I wanted to volunteer to go over there. I was very gung-ho,” he said. “They said no, and then when the war really got started I was assigned to Germany and assigned to an advanced weapons command.”
His other major assignment was notifying families who lost loved ones.
“When their remains returned to the United States, I assisted the family in making arrangements for the funeral and making sure they received the honors they were supposed to receive,” Ingram said.
Back home in America, another war was being fought between segregation and discrimination.
“I dealt with any discrimination that came up. I accepted it, dealt with it, and continued marching,” Ingram said. “I continued moving on, I didn’t dwell on it.”
Ingram was determined to let others know about the contributions of Black soldiers by teaching classes on the subject.
In 2007, he wrote a book called, “The History of the Black Soldier” examining their role from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s very important and for years we forgot to do that, especially forgot to include the contributions that were made by the black African-Americans during wars,” he said.
Ingram says service men and women shouldn’t just be remembered, celebrated, or commemorated on Veterans Day, but every day.
“I feel proud and honored and I think every veteran feels that way also,” Ingram said.