Former Buffalo Soldier of Denmark dies

Jennifer Edwards, The editor of the St. Augustine paper

James White of St. Augustine, a pioneering buffalo soldier who served in World War II and headed a family involved in the Civil Rights movement, has died. He was 91.

White lived in an historic home on South Street on property that also hold the remains of the oldest slave quarters in the country, his close friend and ex-son-in-law Leon VanDyke said Monday night.

He was arrested three times during the Civil Rights struggle in which his late wife Hattie, who died in June, and twin daughters Janice and Jeanette, also participated, according to VanDyke and The St. Augustine Record archives.

“He had a great personality,” VanDyke said. And “He loved the buffalo soldiers” of whom he was a part. Native Americans gave that name in respect to the all-black military units created for the first time around the time of the Civil War, according to the Houston-based buffalo soldiers National Museum.

“The actual Cheyenne translation was wild buffalo,” the museum site states. “The nickname was given out of respect and the fierce fighting ability of the 10th cavalry. Over time, buffalo soldiers became a generic term for all African-American soldiers.”

White was 23 and living in Denmark, S.C., when he was drafted into the U.S. Army’s 92nd Infantry Division, still commonly known as the Buffalo Soldiers Division, according to St. Augustine Record archives.

The segregated unit was the only black infantry division to see combat in Europe, according to those archives.

Wounded in combat, White was awarded a Purple Heart, World War II victory medal, American Theater Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and an EAME Service medal with two Bronze Service Stars.

VanDyke said fellow soldiers in the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Jacksonville are expected to attend the service.

White is to be buried in the buffalo soldiers jacket and hat the club gave him.

VanDyke said White passed away more than a week ago and within a day or so of the birth of his great-great grandson.

White loved to cultivate the beautiful flowers and trees that filled his yard, VanDyke said, and that’s the path he chose after his discharge.

“That’s what he did when he got out — landscape — because he loved to do that,” VanDyke said.

“He was a real nice guy,” VanDyke said. “Anything he planted would grow, any plant that he touched, or flower, would just grow and double and triple in size.”

“He did a lot,” said VanDyke, who goes by the nickname Night Rider in the motorcycle club. “He had a long life, and he was pretty much healthy up until the end.”

Did you know?

African Americans have served proudly in every great American war. In 1866, through an act of Congress, legislation was adopted to create six all African American Army units. The units were identified as the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st infantry regiments. The four infantry regiments were later reorganized to form the 24th and 25th infantry regiments.

Source: buffalo soldiers National Museum.