Our Town Thomasville: Henry Flipper

Henry Flipper
Posted at 10:10 PM, Mar 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-28 22:10:00-04

THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WTXL)--You can take a black heritage tour in Thomasville, visiting nearly 70 sites including the public library where former Florida State football star Charlie Ward's Heisman Trophy is on display.

The first African American graduate of West Point is buried in Thomasville.

 Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper's amazing story from the man who dedicates his life to keeping black history alive.

Lt. Flipper was a solider, surveyor and civil engineer who did not let anything get in the way of his goals and dreams.

Jack Hadley is an expert when it comes to black history in his hometown of Thomasville. He's the creator of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, collecting thousands of artifacts since 1979.

"We must treasure our stuff for the next generation," said Jack Hadley. "We must collect it. We must secure it."

People like Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper were from Thomasville. Flipper was born a slave in 1856. He learned how to read from another slave, attended school and in 1873 was appointed to the U.S. Miltary Academy-West Point. Hadley says Flipper persevered even though he was disrespected at times because of his race.

"Lt. Flipper graduated from West Point in 1877 but those four years what happened to Lt. Flipper he received the silent treatment," said Hadley. "No one would talk to him outside of the classroom."

Later Hadley says Lt. Flipper was accused of conduct unbecoming an officer. He was then dishonorably discharged from the army in 1882. Flipper tried to clear his own name for decades.

"That didn't stop him," said Hadley. "He became a surveyor. He became an entrepreneur. He built the Alaskan railroads."

Henry Flipper died in 1940 and was buried in Atlanta and it wasn't until after his death that the U.S. Army gave Lt. Flipper an honorable discharge in 1976. He was reburied with honors in 1978 in Thomasville.

When President Clinton issued a pardon in 1999--he said, "Lt. FLipper's family teaches us-that we must never give up the fight to make a country live up to its highest ideals."

Jack Hadleys says Lt. Flipper paved the way for others throughout our country and people in Thomasville are proud Lt. Flipper is one of their own.

Jack Hadley is also requesting a U.S. postage stamp be created in honor of Lt. Flipper. He has a petition you can sign. Want to learn more about Lt. Henry Flipper? All you have to do is go to our web site