First African American Male Hired as a Full-Time Employee

Staff Sergeant (SSG) John Watson:

SSG Watson was born in Batesville, Mississippi. He attended Horace Mann High School in Little Rock, Arkansas and graduated in 1967. He began his military career with the 189th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Arkansas Air National Guard. While a member of the Arkansas Air National Guard, SSG served as a Pneumatic Repairman. On October 6, 1971, SSG Watson enlisted into the 148th Evacuation Hospital (-), Arkansas Army National Guard.

On January 8, 1972, SSG Watson was reassigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 125th Medical Battalion in North Little Rock. During his assignment with the 125th Medical Battalion, SSG Watson performed various military duties. He was reassigned to the 936th Aviation Company on November 23, 1975, where he was hired in the Arkansas Army National Guard Technician Program as an Aircraft Hydraulics Repairman and later as an UH-1 Helicopter Repairman/Crew Chief. SSG Watson was the first African American Male to work Full-Time for the Arkansas Army National Guard Technician Program.

SSG Watson had a desire to advance and progress within the Arkansas Army National Guard system. He applied for numerous full-time positions within the Full-Time Technician Program but found that it was not an easy task for a Black man to move in an all-white male domain. SSG Watson began to seek his rights under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the local union contract.

In 1975, he filed a discrimination complaint with the Arkansas National Guard and the Union, Local 1671. SSG Watson prevailed as the Court found in June 1984 that the Arkansas National Guard had discriminated against him in not promoting him while promoting less qualified white employees. SSG Watson’s efforts greatly enhanced the ability of African Americans to have opportunities for advancement in the Arkansas National Guard.

SSG Watson was Honorably Discharged from the Arkansas Army National Guard on October 5, 1983, with over 14 years of military service. His awards and badges consist of the Army Reserve Achievement Medal and the Aircraft Crew Member Badge.