Michael Langley becomes Marines’ first Black 4-star general

WASHINGTON — Gen. Michael E. Langley became the first Black general promoted to four-star general on Saturday, attaining the highest rank in the Marine Corps.

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Langley, 60, becomes one of only three four-star generals serving in the Marines, The New York Times reported. He is the first Black general to receive a fourth star in the 246-year history of the Marines.

The Marines did not accept Black men into its ranks until 1942, shortly after the U.S. entered World War II after the attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, according to The Associated Press. The American military services were not desegregated until President Harry Truman’s order in 1948. In 1979, Frank E. Peterson was the first Black Marine promoted to one-star general, the Marines said in its news release.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Langley joined the Marines in 1985 after graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, according to a news release. He grew up at military bases because his father, Willie C. Langley, served in the Air Force.

The elder Langley attended Saturday’s ceremony.

“My daddy told me to aim high, so I aimed as high as I could and found the few and the proud,” Michael Langley said during a ceremony at Marine Corps Barracks Washington.

The general will take command of the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees America’s military presence in the region, the Times reported. A change of command ceremony will be held at the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, on Monday, according to the newspaper.

Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, promoted Langley.

“Forty-three years we go from our first African American general to now our first -- I think leading to many more -- four-star African American generals,” Berger said during the ceremony.

Langley was nominated by President Joe Biden for the promotion in June and the Senate confirmed it by a voice vote earlier this week, according to CNN.

Gen. Langley’s great-uncle was one of the Montford Point Marines, who were the first Black recruits to join the Marine Corps in 1942, the Times reported. They trained at Montford Point in North Carolina, which was separate from Camp Lejeune, where the white recruits trained.

“The milestone and what it means to the Corps is quite essential,” Langley said during Saturday’s ceremony. “Not because the mark in history, but what it will affect going forward, especially for those younger across society that want to aspire and look at the Marine Corps as an opportunity.”