The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998 Page: 546
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
with the case when his mother told him in 1968 that Theodore Roosevelt had
"kicked" the black soldiers "out of the army." Weaver's book focused closely on
the facts of the case as he pursued his argument that a miscarriage of justice had
occurred. Now Weaver revisits the Brownsville controversy to tell how the exon-
eration of the soldiers took place in the 197os and to trace the interlocking lives
of Joseph B. Foraker, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dorsie Willis, the last black sol-
dier alive when overdue vindication finally came.
Weaver is a compelling writer and this book, part memoir, part biography,
and part history, offers an excellent opportunity for a new generation of readers
to learn about this very sad chapter in race relations and military justice. They
will also discover a forgotten politician in Foraker, whose career combined the
Republican commitment in the Civil War to advance black aspirations with the
later reservations among the GOP about the use of government power to regu-
late the economy. Weaver's audience will also learn about the darker side of
Theodore Roosevelt, whose professed aim to be the heir of Abraham Lincoln so
often gave way to political expediency when he dealt with African Americans.
The other major character in the book is Dorsie Willis, who sought only to
serve his country and received atrocious treatment from government officials
who dispensed "justice" with the blinkers of prejudice. At the end of his life
Willis said "they can't pay me for the sacrifice I've made, the sacrifice that my
family had to undergo. You can't pay for a lifetime." It is a measure of Weaver's
achievement that he shows why Dorsie Willis belongs in the same book with
"Fire Alarm" Joe Foraker and Theodore Roosevelt. Foraker said on the Senate
floor in 19o8 of the Brownsville soldiers that "They ask no favors because they
are Negroes, but only for justice because they are men." Then it took sixty-four
years and the dogged energies of John D. Weaver to secure a small measure of
justice for the wronged soldiers. In the current debate over American race rela-
tions, all points of view could do well to read and ponder the sobering lessons
contained in The Senator and the Sharecropper's Son.
University of Texas at Austin LEWIS L. GOULD
Ginning Cotton: An Entrepreneur's Story. By A. L. Vandergriff. (Lubbock: Texas
Tech University Press, 1997. Pp. x+293. Foreword, preface, introduction,
illustrations, appendix, index. ISBN o-89672-371-2. $34.95, cloth.)
When most Texans think of entrepreneurs, they visualize oil field wildcatters,
land developers, airline and computer magnates, owners of small businesses,
ranchers, and (perhaps) farmers. Seldom do they visualize that rarest Texan of
all, the inventor. A. L. Vandergriff is both inventor and entrepreneur, and his
autobiography serves as an example of the success that hard work, native genius,
and good management can create.
Born and raised near Sulphur Springs, Vandergriff grew up in the rich cotton
country of North Texas, where his father owned a cotton gin. Like many young
men during the Depression years, "Vandy" sharecropped cotton to help support
the family but he was determined to acquire an education and graduated both
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998, periodical, 1998; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/m1/629/: accessed January 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.