Many of you know his strong, bright, capable, no nonsense, integrity filled daughter, Wayne County Prosecutor, Kim Worthy. Now I want you to meet her father, Clifford Worthy. I should salute, out of respect and honor when I mention Colonel Worthy’s name. You see, Clifford Worthy, the great grandson of slaves, was one of the few African-American men of his generation who was accepted and excelled as a Black Knight of the Hudson, a traditional nickname for West Point cadets.
Col Worthy, now in his 90’s , part of the “Greatest Generation”, has chronicled his unlikely life story in a book: The Black Knight, An African-American Family’s Journey from West Point-A Life of Duty, Honor and Country.
Worthy describes his journey to West Point, the many challenges he overcame both in his family and in the U.S. Army. His book carries us through life in the military from the post-World War II era into the Cold War and on to Vietnam.
Worthy talks about personal challenges of growing up, surviving and raising a family; with the special challenge of a son with a intellectual and developmental disability during these trying times in America.
Some men by their sheer presence command respect, Col Worthy, forever a soldier is that man.
I first met the man of honor at my friend, Eddie Mae Jones’ home in upscale West Side Detroit neighborhood of Green Acres in the mid 70’s. Eddie Mae, now deceased and I became fast friends as I began my social work administration career at Wayne Center, a Detroit based, non profit agency serving persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Eddie Mae, was a strong Black woman who cared deeply about “forgotten people.”
I can hear her words now, “Only the strong survive and without hope you have nothing,” she would preach to me and anyone in earshot. Eddie Mae and her husband had no children of their own and were by far the most upper middle class family this white boy from a working class background had ever associated with, up until this point in my life. Eddie Mae would cook brisket that would melt in your mouth on Sundays and invite doctors, lawyers, judges, all professional African American friends to her home for Sunday brunch.
As her friend, I was invited as well, it was here I met Col Worthy who impressed me the moment I met him. I felt honored to be in his presence as we first shook hands. We bonded over our belief in service and compassion for all people; especially those with extra challenges in life.
Over the years, I learned a little of his story, I did not realize how impressed I should be until I read his book.
The praise is as thick and rich for the man as it is for his memoir.
Rick Forzano, former head coach of the Detroit Lions, praises Worthy’s memoir and his example to all of us. “He has fought his way through virtually every stage in life with his faith in God giving him the necessary strength and courage,”
The recently departed Dean of the House , U.S. Representative John Dingell Jr. writes the forward to Col Worthy’s book saying: “This memoir of retired Col. Cliff Worthy may seem like the story of one family, but it really is the story of many American families. Cliff’s story reminds all of us that—at our best as Americans—we are called to help each other build a stronger, healthier community. America’s great strength is that we come together here—we come together in all of our wonderful diversity, reflecting our families’ origins in places around the world. He continues: My father, John Dingell Sr.—who played a crucial role in the life of the Worthy family—was a wonderful teacher to all of us. He taught me what it meant to truly be a public servant. As I followed him into Congress, I never forgot what he said: “We are servants. We are not masters of people. We serve—and that is the highest calling of all.” …
Today, as Cliff and I both are in our 90s and have retired from public service, we share our pride in family. We can see those around us continuing in this courageous vocation of service. We need to keep opening doors for other families. If my father had not taken that chance in the 1940s of sending a young African-American student from Detroit to West Point—Cliff would not have had his remarkable career. And, as you will read in this memoir, without Cliff’s life of service, I doubt that we would have his daughter, Kym Worthy, serving as our Wayne County Prosecutor today.
As it was in the past, our country once again is deeply divided. I love this country. Cliff Worthy loves this country. I hope that this memoir will remind you of what it truly means to be an American. We come together. We serve.
There is a central theme of Col Worthy’s life and book: Wherever our adventures carry us in life—and whatever dire challenges we face—we can draw on the strength of faith, family and friends.
Your book tells a remarkable story, Col Cliff Worthy because you Sir are a remarkable man.
We need more men of honor like Col Worthy and Rep John Dingell, Jr.
Go to Amazon or your local book store and order your copy of a hero of a man: The Black Knight, An African-American Family’s Journey from West Point-A Life of Duty, Honor and Country.
Tom Watkins has an eclectic career in both the public and private sectors. He served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and director of the department of mental health. He has held leadership positions in higher education, business and behavioral health. Watkins has a interest and passion in all things China and has written hundreds of article on the value of this most important bilateral relationship in the world today.