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The Black Knight by Clifford Worthy



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In this Heroic Investing episode, Gary Pinkerton hosts Retired Army Col. Clifford Worthy, author of the book The Black Knight: An African-American Family’s Journey from West Point-A Life of Duty, Honor, and Country and one of the first African-American enrollees at West Point. Clifford shares his experiences in the armed service and what he has done after. He encourages us to always be open and prepared for opportunities.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Welcome to the heroic investing show podcast for first responders, members, the military, veterans and anyone looking to improve their financial future and gain some freedom with their time. We teach America’s heroes how to build passive income, build their startup business and safely grow wealth through real estate and other alternative investments. We are current and private First Responders put protections systems and a team in place to help them build a life where they can focus on their passion, that service or product that they’re uniquely gifted to share with others, making the world a better place for all of us. My name is Gary Pinkerton and I co host this show with Jason Hartman. This is Episode 202. Today we have with us Colonel Clifford worthy Colonel worthy is a career army officer having graduated from West Point one of the earlier African Americans to graduate from there and back in 1950, I think 1949 he graduated, and so that puts him just shy of nine years old, another incredible individual with lots of wisdom that I think the audience will greatly appreciate. He’s written a book called the Black Knight and African American families journey from West Point, a life of duty, honor and country. I found this episode as well as his life in the civilian world, following the military and his time. in service of nearly 40 years of, of helping out the disadvantaged, really, really inspiring, but also quite informative. I think you cannot listen to an individual who’s got this many years so this many times around the sun as they call it without finding some pearls of wisdom, so please enjoy this episode. Well, the rogue investors, thank you so much for joining us for another episode. I think you’re really going to enjoy this gentleman we have on today. I might say that every time but I definitely take an opportunity when we have Vietnam soldiers, Korean War veterans and members from World War Two when we have an opportunity to bring gentlemen like that on. They’ve seen you know, extreme combat. They also have some life lessons because they’ve been living on this planet a little bit longer than maybe some of the rest of you all out there listening. This is definitely no exception. Today we have with this Colonel Clifford worthy and Colonel worthy was one of the first African American individuals to go and graduate from West Point back when they call them the black nights. And he has a great book out there about that. And we’re going to have Colonel worthy tell you about it. But first, Colonel, thank you so much for joining our audience.

Clifford Worthy 3:08
You’re welcome. Glad to be with you.

Gary Pinkerton 3:10
So you mentioned a little bit off air there that you currently hail from Michigan. Did you grow up in Michigan?

Clifford Worthy 3:16
Well, I started off in Atlanta until I was 11 years old, and we moved to Michigan in 1939. from Atlanta, my family did. And clay Michigan is my home state.

Gary Pinkerton 3:27
Awesome. And when you finished up in the military, did you go back to Michigan? You’ve been living there for many years, or do you travel around the US for a while first?

Clifford Worthy 3:36
No, I still am in Michigan and a town called Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which is a suburb of Detroit. I’ve been there since I retired in 1976. From the from the military.

Gary Pinkerton 3:48
Wonderful. So could you tell us, you know just about your background, how you ended up at West Point. It’s fascinating background. I’ve looked into it a little bit. I think the audience would greatly benefit from it. You know, the challenges and you know, just your mindset and things like that that led you there?

Clifford Worthy 4:04
Well, I entered Wayne University, which is in Detroit, Michigan, when I was 16 years old as a pre med student. I was supposed to be the family doctor, not only for my immediate family, but for my extended family. And I had a chance encounter meeting with an ex cadet who was visiting University at the same time within the un omein. At the main at that time was the main administrative building when you diversion. That’s before when University became Wayne State. I was a pre med student, as I said, with a chance of going to med school about zero to none because my folks could not afford to send me to medical school. So anyway, I met this young man, and he had left the academy and we had a conversation I recognized him because of the clothes that he was wearing uniform use wearing. I asked a lot of questions before that conversation had no interest or knowledge of the military. And anyway, we talked and he said Are you Why not ask your congressman for an appointment to West Point you seemed interested. So at that time three cent stamp wrote, wrote a letter to my congressman thinking I would never hear again. And a couple of weeks later, I got a response back from john Dingell senior, the father of john Dingell, who is the Dean of house the representative. He died just recently, but his father was the one who started the ball rolling to get him getting into West Point was in 1946. took about three years before I actually got in, but congressman Dingell persisted in at West Point, July 1 1949. Right That said, I had not planned it, but it worked out fine. It was just one of those unexpected opportunities that hit me and I don’t regret it got a bit of it.

Gary Pinkerton 5:48
That’s really interesting. I, I came across a Naval Academy and almost the same way my sister kind of out of the blue I mean, we were very similar. We were me. I grew up poor and on a farm, and so In Illinois that we basically went through foreclosure right before that, and didn’t have the money to go anywhere. And my sister who had really good grades was a year ahead of me. And she applied to the Naval Academy. And I didn’t even know what the place was at the time. And I said, Well, that’s interesting. What’s that place? Well, she ends up not going. And I do go for the same reason. So just a conversation with another person. Mine was a little more direct, like I actually got to see her go all the way through the application process. But, you know, the earliest lesson in our conversation here is to never close your mind to new ideas, right. I mean, that was just amazing. It was just

Clifford Worthy 6:38
ready for unexpected opportunities. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

Gary Pinkerton 6:43
Wow. And so a little different scenario, though, in the late 1940s. When you went to West Point, you weren’t the very first African American or were you to go through that school?

Clifford Worthy 6:52
Oh, no, no, not the first but one of the earlier graduates. Yes.

Gary Pinkerton 6:56
Okay. And so, certainly that, you know, just kind of give some perspective where that A handful of African Americans in your class.

Clifford Worthy 7:03
Yeah, there was a total of 12 at the Academy. Okay. Three in my class.

Gary Pinkerton 7:10
It’s really kind of neat when you look at the book. I mean, you had the opportunity to talk with a congressman, I guess it was his son who actually wrote the comment in your book are one of the endorsements of your book. Is that accurate?

Clifford Worthy 7:21
That’s correct. Don, Jr. And yeah, he was the one that wrote the foreword and the book.

Gary Pinkerton 7:29
Wow. And so you you finished up at West Point. And you join the melter and did a full career in the army and you had service in Vietnam. And you if I understand, right, you were in the electronic systems.

Clifford Worthy 7:44
Well, that was that was one that was one of my Yeah, that was relatively short assignment. That wasn’t, I wouldn’t consider that one of the primary assignments that I have. Yes, but I did spend a period of time therefore Prius with electric tronic systems test division, which he left well

Gary Pinkerton 7:59
point as a field artillery officer, is that is that true?

Clifford Worthy 8:02
That’s correct. That was my bread selected.

Gary Pinkerton 8:05
And you were a tank commander in Vietnam. So you were that that would have made you, major or Colonel.

Clifford Worthy 8:13
Colonel as a battalion commander? Yeah. Committed eight inch 175 gun composite battalion in Vietnam in 1968.

Gary Pinkerton 8:23
Wow. I would have thought you saw service in. I mean, you missed World War Two, but you definitely saw Korean War, I think, right.

Clifford Worthy 8:30
No, I didn’t. Korean War was over too much. Before I graduated from West Point in 1953. Okay, so I missed the Korean War.

Gary Pinkerton 8:39
You know, one of the things that they say, you know, we always talk about now that we’re constantly at war with terrorism, but, but a lot of Americans out there are not paying any attention to that. I mean, it’s true for those that are in service, but the entire country, though, was a continuous war from World War Two through Vietnam. And I think that’s something that’s, it was the focus of what we were doing out there. And then of course, you had the Cold War after a bit. I mean that that’s my perspective, at least of reviewing history that there was not a lot of break between Korea and Vietnam. It wasn’t one of those times where the army came back and kind of went back into garrison as we did after World War One. Is that your memory too? I mean, we were either in conflict or preparing when you first came out.

Clifford Worthy 9:21
Yeah, I guess that’s a pretty good assessment of it. At the time. Actually, I’m, if you’re asking me about my time in Vietnam, I went into 1968, just after the Tet Offensive, and I was there from 1968 to 69. I commanded Field Artillery Battalion for six months, and then they were trying to at that time to get as many veterans as possible combat duty. So they were selecting Lieutenant Colonel’s primarily to command in Vietnam to get that command experience and, and so I was one of the ones that did that and the last six months, I had an assignments within the Corps.

Gary Pinkerton 10:01
Got it? Okay, so kind of cycling through a little quickly, they still play those games. By the way, sir. My, my submarine command was was 23 months long and there by the book there, you know, 28 to 32. And it was just another deployment was coming, and we needed to get more people experience. And I completely understand that. I feel great to have had the time, which is a long, a lot longer than you had in at least in that command. Did you get another but did you get another opportunity, another command opportunity while you were on active duty?

Clifford Worthy 10:35
Not another command opportunity? No, but I had several times. When I left Vietnam, went to the Pentagon. I was there for four years, that place to find it. I had previously been sent to the University of Arizona to get a master’s degree in mechanical engineering is a part of kind of an advanced school program for selected officers. So that prepared me for the assignment in that case. up and after Vietnam and officer the chief of research and development was enough staff officer they’re working with, primarily with field artillery, missiles, and both of our cannon and artillery. And then from there was selected to be one of the military since to the undersecretary of the army. So I spent two years there with him followed that I went to an industrial College of armed forces, which is one of those schools that some officers in both military and senior civilians tend to have to study country resources and so I spent a year there. And then that I went to Fort Sill Oklahoma to be the head of the terrorist systems and department at phylactery School and bad and back to Michigan to the tech tech, automotive automotive command. My first wife died while I was there at Fort Sill. And I felt that with a two youngsters that I had one of which was a special needs to young sure that I should not probably stay in the army chasing around the world with two youngsters with one special one special needs. So I decided to retire and I asked for assignment to the tech automotive commanded in Detroit, Michigan, North actually a suburb of Detroit, Warren, Michigan. And it was kind of an automatic branch assignment, but I wanted to be near family here. I have a lot of family Detroit, because of my children. And it was kind of a career ending assignment. And I was by my choice because I had a youngster to be concerned with and I just felt it was more important to take care of them.

Gary Pinkerton 12:46
Probably one of the more heroic ones you’ve done, right? I mean, it’s extremely important. It’s also a common story that you laid out for all of us out there that are not career officers. All of the moving sounded exhausting in your conversation. There, but it’s it’s pretty common, right? I mean, it’s it was not that unusual moving around like that, at that’s

Clifford Worthy 13:07
not uncommon at all and several other assignments intertwine with with what I just described to you. A lot of it in the Pentagon does something different than other things. So yeah,

Gary Pinkerton 13:16
exactly. Yeah, I had 2222 addresses during my time in the military.

Clifford Worthy 13:22
You missed me by one at 23.

Gary Pinkerton 13:26
Just like to say right away, it was just the way it was done, or is done. If you had something to tell your your 21 year old self, you know, the second lieutenant coming out of West Point. What would that be? You know, what is the wisdom you have now you don’t feel like you had back then.

Clifford Worthy 13:43
If coming out of West Point, you were well prepared for a career in the military. I had a wonderful four years at West Point. it prepared me for the rest of my life. Hell for me, and I would tell any young young man who had His future ahead of him to be prepared for one of these unexpected events that happens and just things don’t always come just based on study alone hard studying hard work, but you bet that prepares you for for your future and to make the most of it. And it’s particularly important for young black African American because the opportunities are not as you know, a few and far between sometimes but he has to realize that they’re here it is I’ve got it, I’m going to see it make the most of it. And you know, they’re gonna he’s gonna have run into some bad people, but there’s some good folks out there too, that will assist them along the way and I had a wonderful career in the military and and I had a wonderful time working for General Motors and, and so I have no regrets in my life. And my son, my special needs son, that was a real challenge for me because there was at that time, there was very little out there to assist with With youngsters like him, and so in my travels, always, always on the lookout for Where? Where could I go to get some help for him? And that was a real challenge. And that story is told in the book quite a bit too and rightfully so. I retired from the army in 1976. General Motors later in 1991.

Gary Pinkerton 15:18
And what have you done after 1991? Sir,

Clifford Worthy 15:20
after 1991, I have been retired and I’ve been associated with different groups I was, especially those that are concerned with special needs youngsters because my son who died about four or five, four or five years ago now, so I was active with several organizations which are listed in that book. They’re particularly one called angels place that work with them for a number of years and and other organizations as well. So that’s what’s kept me busy. And in writing this book kept me busy too.

Gary Pinkerton 15:55
So tell us a little bit about angels place

Clifford Worthy 15:58
where you just place paper at home. For developmentally disabled adults 26 years of age and older, and it’s a wonderful organization. Right now we started basically in 1992. And I got involved with them a year later. At that time, there was five ladies who had one of which had a special needs daughter. And it was it couldn’t find satisfactory, helpful. And so they formed a start at Angel place. And I got to know know them and started working with them get on the board of directors two or three times along the way. But the real thing that stood up with Andrew is places that if young person was accepted, and he was placed, he was there for life and they were prepared to take him take care of him even when his parents or guardians were gone. They were still you could still have a place and so they’ve done a terrific job and well established and I enjoyed my work with him.

Gary Pinkerton 17:00
Oh, that’s fantastic. So, audience just catching you up a little bit. So angels place is on the, it’s actually I guess Southfield, Michigan, right. So it’s it’s near Detroit, where they’re headquartered. Right. And there are they all across the country or do they? Are they mainly in the Detroit area?

Clifford Worthy 17:17
Maybe the Metropolitan Detroit area 2121 homes now. Wow. We started with nothing but now we’ve got 21 homes and they’re all wonderful residences, I would be happy to be there for living in any one of them.

Gary Pinkerton 17:31
That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. And audience is heroic investors. You can find out more at Angel’s place.com. They have a nice website and quite a bit of information. And then four corner worthies book. The title of his book is the Black Knight and African American families journey from West Point, a life of duty, honor and country and that one’s available on Amazon and probably just about anywhere else. So far, we’ve kind of gone through your career. And we’ve talked about your amazing support to angels place and other charities that that have focused on individuals with disabilities. What else is out there that you feel like either veterans, active duty members or even first responders would benefit greatly from what have I not asked you? I guess it’s really my question.

Clifford Worthy 18:23
Well, you’ve covered cover the basis pretty well. There are all kinds of opportunities out there. And my objective for the book was, be prepared to accept and make the best of whatever when when you receive one of these opportunities, we’re here to play here’s my career began totally on an expected basis. As far as I would just tell, I’m particularly concerned with young African American men and women, because sometimes accessibility is more limited for them and I would just want to be sure that they were ready make themselves ready to tackle whatever opportunity It’s a

Gary Pinkerton 19:01
Wonderful. Well, Colonel, thank you so much for your service to this nation in the military and afterwards your service to other people. We really appreciate a little bit more service of, you know, giving us some time here to relay your story and give some advice. Thank you for being on our show. Thank you for having me.

Announcer 19:21
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