Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients: Austin McKenzie - Jamaican/Cuban; Major Victor Terrelonge - Jamaican

Caribbean Actors Star in Red Tails movie – Caribbean Americans Served as Tuskegee Airmen

David W.D. Dickson: b. 1919 – d. 2003

David W. D. Dickson, a scholar of Renaissance and biblical literature, was the first African-American (Jamaican) to head a New Jersey state college or university. He was president of what is now Montclair State University while it emerged from its origins as a teachers’ college.

He spent more than 40 years in academia as a teacher and administrator before he retired in 1989 as professor emeritus from what was then Montclair State College. He headed Montclair State from 1973 to 1984.  Dr. Dickson raised the college’s academic standards and balanced its liberal arts and professional offerings with 30 new undergraduate and graduate programs.  In the years that he led the college, 11 buildings were constructed and enrollment tripled to nearly 14,000, according to the university. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences building is named after him.  He was active in community affairs and represented Montclair State on various state and national bodies.

David Watson Daly Dickson was born in Portland, Me., the son of Jamaican immigrants. His father was a janitor, and his mother was a maid and seamstress. Despite their modest means they sent him and three siblings to Bowdoin College with the help of scholarships. He graduated first in his class, summa cum laude, in 1941 and received a master’s degree at Harvard in 1942.

In World War II, he served in the Army, in a segregated quartermaster’s unit on Cape Cod, before receiving officer’s training. He rose to first lieutenant as the adjutant to the commanding officer of the medical unit of the Army Air Forces base in Tuskegee, Ala.  Dr. Dickson returned to Harvard to complete a doctoral program in English literature in 1949. By then he had become the first African-American on the faculty of Michigan State University, where he taught for 15 years.

He took time out to study Greek, Hebrew and Palestinian archaeology at Harvard and at Syrian University in Damascus.

Later, in the mid-1960’s, he held academic and administrative positions at Northern Michigan University in Marquette and at Federal City College in Washington.  From 1969 to 1973 he was a professor of English, assistant to the president and dean of continuing education at Stony Brook University on Long Island.  In 1973, he became president of Montclair State and also taught as a distinguished service professor from 1984 until his retirement.

He won the Michigan State University’s first Distinguished Faculty Award in 1952 and the Distinguished Bowdoin Educator Award in 1971. He also published several books, including “Memoirs of an Isolate.”

(Wolfgang Saxon – New York Times)