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Slave, Cadet Getting Commission

Thu., July 20, 1995

A former slave from South Carolina who more than a century ago was beaten by fellow cadets at West Point and then drummed out of the corps will finally receive the Army commission that his descendants have sought for years.

Acting on a request from Congress, where Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina had pushed for the posthumous commission, President Clinton is to award it at a White House ceremony next Monday to the family of the onetime cadet, Johnson C. Whittaker.

Also to be turned over then is what Whittaker’s granddaughter Cecil Pequette described Wednesday as the real award: his Bible, which was seized as evidence for his court-martial in 1881 and has been stored in the National Archives ever since. “The Bible was given to him by his mother when he went to West Point,” Pequette said, “and it contains his jottings about his loneliness. The Bible had been a comfort to him during his ordeal.”

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