About BG R. C. Cartwright
Brigadier General Roscoe Conklin Cartwright, affectionately known as “Rock,” forged an impressive record during his 33 years of Army service. He overcame seemingly insurmountable barriers during his service, provided mentoring for young officers ascending through the military ranks and laid a roadmap that lives on today through his legacy.
Serving in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, General Cartwright became the first black Field Artilleryman promoted to Brigadier General and would eventually serve in the Pentagon. In 1974, shortly after his retirement from active service, General Cartwright and his wife, Gloria, died in a commercial airplane crash while returning to their home outside of Washington, D.C.
Born May 27, 1919, in Kansas City, Kansas, General Cartwright spent his youth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With his sights originally set on a college education prior to the World War II draft, General Cartwright said, “I recall seeing very few blacks in uniform in Tulsa before World War II. Therefore, being or becoming a soldier did not interest me until the draft was initiated and they started the lottery in 1940.”
Thus, after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1936, he returned to Kansas to attend the Kansas State Teachers College. Unable to continue financing school during the Great Depression, General Cartwright entered the workforce with stints at the University of Tulsa and the Bubble-Up Bottling Company.
Any plans of returning to college were put on hold as General Cartwright was drafted into the Army in 1941 and assigned to the 349th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Exemplary of the segregated army at the time, all of the men enlisted in the 349th were black while all of the officers, except the chaplain, were white. Upon completion of Officers Candidate School in November 1942, General Cartwright was commissioned as Field Artillery Second Lieutenant in the 599th Field Artillery Battalion of the famed 92nd Infantry Division where he would remain throughout the war. He proudly led his men through the rigors of combat in Italy and, after the war, was promoted to First Lieutenant.
General Cartwright returned to his wife in the United States with intentions on returning to a civilian life and finishing college. While the 599th was temporarily stationed at Camp Robinson near Little Rock, Arkansas, he had met and married Gloria Lacefied who was from nearby Hope, Arkansas. However, as General Cartwright stated, “When I arrived in November, all the schools were full. So I decided to remain in the Army another year.” The Cartwright family, eventually including four children, would live not only in several US cities, but also in Germany, Korea and Japan as General Cartwright’s continued success in the Army would lead to a military career.
After a transfer into the “regular” Army, which was unprecedented for a black officer, General Cartwright was promoted to Captain and served a combat tour in Korea. Next, in 1954, was a promotion to Major and duty in Korea and Japan. He remained in Vietnam until 1971, when he became the third black promoted to Brigadier General after General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Awards during this time include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, National Defense Medal, Korean Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal among others honors and decorations. <<More>>