LT. HENRY OSSIAN FLIPPER

1856-1940

SOLDIER, CIVIL ENGINEER, AUTHOR, NEWSPAPER EDITOR, SURVEYOR, CARTOGRAPHER, SPECIAL AGENT FOR THE U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR AND A PIONEER IN THE NATION'S OIL INDUSTRY:

Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper was born a slave March 21, 1856 in Thomasville, Ga. to the parents of Festus and Isabella Buckhalter Flipper, Sr. Lt. Flipper spent his early years in Thomasville, Ga. and during the Civil War lived in Macon and Atlanta, Ga. Lt. Flipper was taught to read in 1864 by another slave who taught school at night. In late 1865, Lt. Flipper attended a succession of schools established by the American Missionary Association.

In 1873, Lt. Flipper received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy - West Point by Rep. James C. Freeman of Ga. Flipper graduated 50th in a class of 76, the first black to ever do so. Many others tried but failed. Shortly after his graduation from the academy, Lt. Flipper returned to Thomasville , Ga. to visit his father who owned a shoemaking shop. When his furlough was over he returned to the 10th Calvary as the Army's first black Officer.

He was sent to Ft. Sill , Ok. in 1878. It was there he got his first taste of engineering. He and his troop were required to dig a drainage ditch. The ditch was required to help keep the water away from where the troops made camp in order to help combat malaria fever from the mosquitoes the water attracted. The ditch was called "Flippers Ditch." There is a bronze marker commemorating Flippers' Ditch at Ft. Sill which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1880, Flipper's troop was ordered to Ft. Davis , Texas . After marching more than 1,200 miles, the company found the waters of a creek too high to cross. Lt. Flipper requested permission to make a ferry for the troops to use to cross. With permission granted, Lt. Flipper made the ferry, and the troops were able to cross the creek.

The maruading Indians were surprised and killed. Lt. Flipper's outfit returned to Ft. Davis . Upon his return to the Fort, Lt. Flipper was named acting quartermaster, a job that eventually led to his court martial. The young black Lieutenant began to run into officers of higher rank who were showing their open dislike of him. Lt. Flipper was relieved as quartermaster, and some of the officers began to persecute him and lay traps for him. Their traps were effective, for on June 20, 1882 , Lt. Flipper was accused of embezzling government funds and of conduct unbecoming an officer. A general court martial followed and Lt. Flipper was acquitted of the theft charge, but found guilty of misconduct. He was dismissed from the Army.

Despite the stigma, Lt. Flipper continued his life and legacy. He wrote the first personal narrative by a black man on the Western Frontier and was one of the first blacks in the United States to gain prominence in the engineering profession. Flipper was an avid student of Southwestern history and published articles in the magazine Old Sante Fe, a forerunner of the New Mexico Historical review. He also wrote "The Colored Cadet at West Point" an account of his military academy experiences. His second book was entitled "Negro Frontiersman - The Western Memories of Henry O. Flipper."

Despite the frustrating outcome of his military career, Flipper found at last a partial refuge from discrimination by remaining on the border frontier. But still he wanted to return to the Army. Flipper tried for many years to clear his name, he gave up only when ill health forced him to retire. He moved to Atlanta , GA and lived with his brother until he died in 1940. Lt. Flipper never married.

Lt. Flipper was buried in the family grave site at the Southview Cemetery in Atlanta , Georgia . His brother, Bishop Joseph S. Flipper, placed a headstone at his grave that read, "Lt. Henry O. Flipper, Retired U.S. Army Officer, 1856-1940."

In 1972, the late Mr. Ray MacColl, a Valdosta , Georgia school teacher at the time, began researching Lt. Flipper's case at the urging of the late Mrs. Irsle Flipper King, Flipper's niece, of Valdosta , Ga. and other family members including citizens from Thomasville , GA. On December 13, 1976 the United States Army exonerated Lt. Flipper after an extensive review of the field, records and testimony in the court martial.

On February 11, 1978 , Lt. Flipper came home again to Thomasville , GA , 101 years after his last homecoming. His remains were disinterred and then re-interred in Thomasville , Ga. The homecoming began at the First Missionary Baptist Church , where about 500 people black, white, dignitaries and common people alike came to pay their respects to this man. Lt. Flipper's remains lay in a gray steel coffin draped with a U.S. Flag. During the 40 minute service, Lt. Flipper was eulogized by seven different people, each one bringing out something different and unique about this man.

At high noon, six military pallbearers snapped to attention and carried the coffin from the church to the waiting cortege (a military ammunition wagon). The honor guards were composed of members of the 586th Engineering Company and the 36th Engineering Group at Ft. Benning , Georgia , followed by six Thomasville High School drummers. After the coffin was loaded, the pair of match gray mules made their way to the Old Magnolia Cemetery followed by the riderless horse with reversed stirrups. At the cemetery, the coffin was placed over the open grave. The Thomasville High School band played The Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards the military detail lifted and held the flag above the coffin as a 21 gun salute was fired. Henry Ossian Flipper was home to stay, his name cleared at last.

Today Lt. Flipper's grave may be spotted easily among the others by the gray marker and the brick wall. He is buried beside his mother and father, Isabella and Festus Flipper, Sr., in Thomasville 's Old Magnolia Cemetery .

Lt. Flipper has also been honored in another way. The park across the street from his burial site has been named " Flipper Park ."

In February 20, 1985 , under the direction of the late Mr. Ray MacColl, the late Mrs. Irsle Flipper King and other Thomasville citizens initialized an application to issue a United States commemorative postage stamp to honor Lt. Flipper. It was submitted to the United States Postmaster General, Washington , D.C. It has been 22 years, and the Postal Service Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee continues to acknowledge as of May 17, 2007 , that the stamp proposal to honor Lt. Flipper remains under consideration for future stamp issuance. The letter also stated this is a very notable considering; we received approximately 50,000 letters subjects each year.  Please support this effort by writing or petition to Postmaster General/CEO Hon. Jack Potter, United States Postal Service, 475 L' Enfant Plaza , Washington , D.C. 20260. Your letters or petitions will count.

Other Honors include the following:

Flag Day ceremony on June 14, 1986 : Dedication of a flagpole at the Thomasville Public Library in memory of the 130th anniversary of the birth of Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper. A resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan designated 1986 as the Year of the Flag.

The Henry Ossian Flipper Memorial award, established in 1981 by the Association of Graduates, United States Military Academy, West Point: A Pewter Tray awarded in the names of the late Mrs. Irsle Flipper King to the cadet who demonstrated the highest qualities of leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties while a cadet. This award is given annually.

In 1989, the State of Georgia unveiled a Georgia Historical marker at Lt. Flipper's grave site at the Old Magnolia Cemetery in Thomasville , Ga. It was unveiled by Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, who called Flipper a hero and said it was time "we righted this great wrong".

On October 29, 1991, the unveiling of a print by the Heritage Foundation, Inc., to honor Lt. Flipper, one of the most important Blacks in American History. Part of the proceeds from this print will go to support the issuance of a United States Commemorative Postage Stamp to honor Lt. Flipper, courtesy of the Brady Keys, Jr. Family of Albany , Georgia .

On September 19, 1993 a special dedication of the Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper Memorial Meeting Room. A special recognition for Lt. Flipper is a part of the New Thomas County Public Library. This memorial room and Lt. Flipper's contents are dedicated to the Library.

On March 6, 1994 , Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper's sculpture dedication. The Thomas County Public Library, Heritage Foundation, Inc. and the Jack Hadley black history memorabilia, Inc., are honored to present to the people of Thomas County a bronze bust of Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper, sculpted by nationally renowned sculptor Eddie Dixon of Lubbock, Texas.

On July 14, 1998 , the Thomas County Commissioners and Thomasville City Councilmember/Mayor agreed to write a letter endorsing Jack Hadley's efforts to have United States Congress name a Thomasville Post Office Substation, being built here in Thomasville , in honor of Lt. Henry O. Flipper.

On July 22, 1998 , Senator Max Cleland had the pleasure of meeting with the new Postmaster General, William Henderson, to discuss the status of the stamp. The Postmaster assured him that he would give his highest endorsement for the stamp to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee where it remains under consideration.

On July 29, 1998 , Senator Max Cleland introduced a bill; S. 2370 in the 105th Congress, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at Tall Timbers Village Square, United States Highway 19 South, in Thomasville , Georgia , as the "Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper Station". This bill is co-sponsored by Congressman Sanford Bishop.

On August 6, 1998 , Senator Max Cleland released a Public Service Announcement series - Georgians on My Mind, about Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper. This series highlights the lives and careers of some of our most distinguished Georgians.

On December 9, 1998, Senator Max Cleland (D./GA), Congressman Sanford Bishop (R/GA), Colonel Andre H. Sayes U.S. Military Academy, West Point and Lt. General Larry R. Jordan, The Inspector General, U.S. Army came to Thomasville and dedicated Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper Station in Thomasville, GA. More than 400 people came to the Building Dedication Ceremony that was hosted by the United States Postal Service and assisted by the Jack Hadley Black History Memorabilia, Inc. in Thomasville , GA. The Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper Station opened June of 1999.

On February 19, 1999 , President Bill Clinton pardoned Lt. Flipper posthumously erasing the stigma on an extra ordinary military and professional career. A lawyer, Jeff Smith, a partner in a Washington law firm, Arnold and Porter and a West Point graduate wanted to win the pardon in part to show military men and women that past wrongs can be righted. The late Mrs. Irsle Flipper King, Lt. Flipper's niece and other family members worked with the Washington law firm to win this pardon action many years ago. Senator Max Cleland (D/GA) became aware of the possible pardon by the President in December 1998 and was assisted in its early and timely approval during Black History Month, 1999.

On March 30, 2007 , the Army at Fort Leavenworth , Kansas , took another step in honoring Lt. Henry O. Flipper’s legacy with the dedication of a bronze bust of him at the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth . It sit on a concert pedestal chronicles his military and civilian careers.

NOTE: The Flipper family had four other sons besides Henry they were: Bishop Joseph S. Flipper - nationally known leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and past President of Morris Brown College. He is buried in Atlanta , Ga. , Dr. Carl Flipper - former professor at Savannah State College. He is buried in Laurel Grove South Cemetery , Savannah , Ga. , Festus Flipper, Jr. - successful businessman and civic leader of Thomasville . He is buried in Thomasville , Ga. , in the Old Thomasville Cemetery on North Broad St. and Dr. Emory Flipper - one of the early black physicians in South Georgia and Jacksonville , Florida . He is buried in Old Duval Colored Cemetery , a Freeman’s Cemetery in Jacksonville , Florida .

Flipper's father, Festus, Sr., (1832-1918-born a slave). became a  prominent Thomasville businessman after he was freed. He owned a shoemaking shop which was later inherited by his son Festus, Jr. Lt. Flipper's parents, Festus, Sr. and Isabella Flipper, are buried in the Old Magnolia Cemetery where Lt. Flipper is buried. The Old Magnolia Cemetery is located the 800th block of North Madison Street , Thomasville , Ga.

Many of the Flipper family heirlooms, pictures and artifacts are on display at the Jack Hadley Black History Museum located at 214 Alexander St. Thomasville , Ga. 31792 and at the Thomas County Historical Society Museum , located at 725 North Dawson St. Thomasville , Ga. Please visit these two museums to learn more about Lt. Flipper’s life and legacy.

Other books on Lt. Flipper: Henry O. Flipper, African-American Soldiers, by Kathryn Browne Pfeifer - Twenty First Century Books: Henry Ossian Flipper, west Point's First Black Graduate, by Jane Eppinga - Republic of Texas Press; Black Frontiersman, The Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper, compiled and edited by Theodore D. Harris, Texas Christian University Press; Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper "Buffalo Soldier" written and illustrated by David Edmond Hilton, Sprinkle Printing Co, Big Spring TX and in 1995 - Held in Trust, The Story of Lt. Henry O. Flipper developed into a feature length movie for public television. It is available on VHS through PBS Home Video, El Paso Texas. This is a one-act play, featuring noted artist-actor Bob Snead of El Paso Texas. To order call (915) 598-9499 - The Court Martial of Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper, Author: Charles M. Robinson, III published 1994.

Georgia Historical Marker honoring Lt. Flipper in 1989 at the Old Magnolia Cemetery.
Lt. Henry Ossian Fllipper'sBronze Bust at the Thomas County Publiv Library in Thomasville
Mr. Ray MacColl, Mrs. Irsle Flipper King and Former Mayor Earl Williams of Thomasville at, the State of Georgia Unveiling a Georgia Historical Marker at the Flipper's grave site.
Lt. Flipper'sBronze Plaque at the Thomas County Public Library in Thomassville, Ga.
JROTC Cadet Teresa Johnsoin, Gen. Samuel Ebbeson, US Army, Mrs. King, JROTC Cadet Le Anthony DAvis and Congressman SAnford Bishop, 2nd Dist of Ga.--1994
Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper's family at the Unveiling ceremony of the Bronze Bust at the Public Library
Thomasville High School JROTC Cadet Le Anthony Davis gives remarks, Lawyer Roy Lilly, Jr., looks on---1994
Thomasville High School JROTC Cadet Staff Sgt. Teresa Johnson mkdes remarks--1994
Jamea Jack Hadley & Congressman Sanford Bishop, 2nd Dist ofGeorgia, at the unveiling ofLt. Flipper's Bronze Bust.
Mr. Dave Eden, form Samueler Director of the Thomas County Public Library System, present Lt. Flipper books to Gen. Eddeson and Congressman Sanford Bishop--1994.
Mrs. Irsle Flipper King stadning in center
Mrs. King talk with guest at Jack Hadley Black History Collectiion at the Cultural Center
Mrs Irssle Flipper King visited Harper Elementary School, Thomasville, Ga., in 1991. Lt. Flipper's Day.
Chris and jack Hadley, curator of the Jack Hadley Black Hisstory Museum, receive a Flipper pprint from Mr. Brady Keys, Jr.27. Chris and jack Hadley, curator of the Jack Hadley Black Hisstory Museum, receive a Flipper pprint from Mr. Brady Keys, Jr.
Mr. Brady Keys, Jr., points to Lt. Flipper's print at the Jack Hadley Memorabilia, Inc's collection at the Thomasville Cultural Center- 1994
Family members and friends of Mr. Brady Keys of Albany, Georgia, video Lt. Flipper's grave site--1991
Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper's Post Office Building Site
Lt. Flipper's Bronze Plaque on the front entrance of the Lt. Flippers' Post Office Building.-1998
Local VIPs getting ready to do the Ribbon Cutting of the Flipper Post Office Building in 1998
Local VIPs getting ready to do the Ribbon Cutting of the Flipper Post Office Building in 1998
Lt. Henry O. Flipper's Post Office dedication
Thomasville getting ready to have a ribbion cutting of the new Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper Post Office in
Thomasville opened its second post office building and is named in honor of Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper
 
     
Lt. Flipper's first book, an account of his military academny experiences
Lt. Flipper, the first African-American graduate from West Point Academy in 1877
Lt. Henry O. Flipper's mother, Isabella Buckhalter Flipper, stand in front of Festus Flipper Shoe Repair Shop.
Festus Flipper, Sr. owned a Shoe Repair Show, located in the block of 215-217 South Broad St., Thomasville, Ga.
The Ephriam G. Ponder House, Thomasville, Ga. Mr. Ponder, a local slave trader, owned theFlipper family slaves, Festus Flipper, Sr.
Lt. Flipper's family, Father-Festus, Sr., Lt. Flipper, Mother-Isabella, brothers-Dr. Emory,MD, Bishop Joseph, Dr. Carl, Phd, and Fustus Flipper, Jr.
In 1972, the late Mr. Ray MacColl, a teacher, began researching Lt. Flipper's case at the urging of the late Mrs. Irsle Flipper King, Flipper's niece of Valdosta, GA., and other members including citizens from Thomasville, GA..jpg
Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper. In 1873, Lt. Flipper received an appointment to the U.S. Military academy, Wst Point by Rep. James C. Freeman of Ga. He graduated 50th in a class of 76 in 1877, the first black..jpg
Flippers Ditch at Ft. Sill, OK in 1878. See brief Facts on Flipper about this Historic Places
On Feb. 11, 1978, Lt. Flipper came home again to Thomasville and buried at the Thomsville's Old Magnolia Cemetery.
Jack & Chris Hadley visited West Point to present the Pewter Tray Award, honoring Lt. Flipper, took this photo.
West Point photo by Jack & Chris Hadley on a special visit there.
Lt. Flipper's grave may be spotted easily among the others by gray marker and the brick wall. He is buried beside his mother and father.
Lt. Flipper's great-great grand neice viewed Flipper's grave site in Thomasville
Mrs. Irsle Flipprer King Tries to hold back tears as she views the bust of her uncle, Lt. Henry O. Flipper, unveiled at West Point in 1977
Flipper Park, located on North Broad Street, Thomasville.
 
 
 
 

 

 

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