Last survivor of Army's first black regiment dies

Monday, January 21st 2008, 10:23 pm
By: News 9

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

One of the last survivors of the Army's first black regiment died in Lawton last week.

John Baker joined the army in 1939. He was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, the first black Army unit. 

John's Wife, Juanita Baker, said his life as a Buffalo Soldier was not always full of happy memories.

"He didn't like to talk about it too much because to him it was a horrible life to live," Juanita said.

Back then it was a Segregated army. The black solders had to utilize one facility, the Caucasian's utilized another one.

That is until 1944, when the military did away with his unit and transferred him to a unit that wasn't based on color.

"When he went to World War II they fought, they finally let the black soldiers fight and that's what he was proud of more then anything else," Juanita said.

After leaving the military in 1959, Baker settled in Lawton. He started the Lawton Silver Spurs Riding Club. He cultivated an equestrian life that started at a very young age.

John's daughter Ardella describes her father as the epitome of overcoming racial discrimination and pursuing dreams.

"The struggle, he understood the struggle, but he was part of the struggle, but he was still able to persevere," Ardella said.

John Baker was 91. He and his wife would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this year.

Funeral services will be at Lawton's Union Baptist Church Tuesday at 11 a.m. It will be followed by the burial at Fort Sill National Cemetery.