Filed Under Black history

Major General Roger Reckling Blunt

“If I Go, I’m Going as Far as I Can”

On July 13, 1969, physician and chronicler of Black life Dr. Carl Russell Gross opened the Evening Bulletin, clipped the photograph seen here, and placed it into a file marked “Military.” In the photo, we get a glimpse of Major General Roger Reckling Blunt (1930- ), a fourth generation Rhode Island serviceman as he inspects new West Point cadets. He looks confident and we know from other documents collected by Dr. Gross that, early in his career, Blunt gained a reputation for being innovative and demonstrating “a skillful ability to analyze…obstacles and develop thorough solutions.” 

Major General Roger Reckling Blunt was born in 1930. Reflecting on his youth, Blunt’s mother told a local newspaper that he was “unsure what he wanted, but he did want a good education.” He pursued his education for many years after graduating from East Providence Senior High School in 1948, which stood at this address. He went on to attend Brown University for two years and acquired a General Liberal Arts degree. In 1956, Blunt graduated from West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree, ranked 72nd out of 479 graduates, and was the only Black graduate in his class. Six years later, Blunt received a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering as well as a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1962, Blunt attended the Nuclear Power Plant Engineer School in Virginia to become a Certified Nuclear Plant Engineer, later taking an Engineer Officer Career Course at The Engineer School of Virginia. 

Blunt’s commitment to education complemented his participation in the armed forces. Within the Blunt family, he represented the fourth generation of military service. His great-grandfather, Captain Robert W. Blunt, commanded the First Separate Brigade of the Rhode Island Militia (BRIM), a segregated unit that trained at the corner of Knight and Cranston Streets in Providence. Blunt’s grandfather, Captain Harry W. Blunt, commanded the same unit and served in the Spanish-American War. Blunt’s father, Captain Harry W. Blunt Jr. was presented a gold sword by the members of his company. Major General Blunt later used his father’s sword to cut his wedding cake when he married DeRosette Hendricks at West Point in 1956. 

When Blunt first decided he wanted a career in the military, he told his mother, “Mom, if I go, I’m going as far as I can.” Blunt made many advancements throughout a career that began in 1958 as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. While lieutenant, Blunt worked for the German American Assistance Program as part of the 37th Engineers, the largest organized combat group in the U.S Army. He worked as Assistant Operations Officer in charge of the German American Construction Assistance Program, where he organized and operated a technical school for Atomic Demolition Munition specialists. From 1956 to 1965, Blunt worked for the U.S. Corps of Engineers as Project Manager, Technical Operations Officer, and Project Officer. In 1965, Blunt was promoted to Major, at which point he supervised a group of officers and a battalion of 700 men. Blunt transferred to the U.S. Army Reserves in 1969 and was appointed Major General in 1983. He received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1986. 

In the image preserved by Dr. Gross, Blunt is 36 years old and assigned to teach at the Department of Tactics at West Point. He was the first Black officer to be given a teaching assignment at the military academy.  By the end of his active military career, Blunt would go even farther with the start of his own construction company and later as CEO and Chairman of Tyroc Construction and Chairman of the Board and President of Blunt Enterprises, Inc.

Images

Major Blunt at West Point Major Blunt is inspecting the new West Point cadets after being assigned to teach at the Department of Tactics at the academy. Source: Providence Evening Bulletin Creator: United States Army Date: 1969
East Providence Senior High School Blunt graduated in 1948 from East Providence Senior High School, which was located at the time at 20 Whelden Avenue. It is now an apartment building. Source: The Crimson Yearbook Creator: East Providence Senior High School Date: 1951
Excerpt from Manuscript F Research into the life of Major Roger Reckling Blunt began with this note from one of Dr. Gross’s timelines. Source: Papers of Dr. Carl Russell Gross, James P. Adams Library Special Collections, Rhode Island College Creator: Dr. Carl Russell Gross Date: 1960s

Location

20 Whelden Avenue, East Providence, RI 02914

Metadata

Jillian Estrada, “Major General Roger Reckling Blunt,” Rhode Tour, accessed December 7, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/424.