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Baltimore celebrates 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, end of World War I

Lemuel A. Lewie was born just shy of a year after Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I.

On the 100th anniversary of the war’s end, Lewie, one of the last remaining Tuskeegee Airmen, and all other veterans of war were honored during a ceremony at the Baltimore War Memorial Building Sunday.

Former state Del. Clarence “Tiger” Davis pointed to the 99-year-old Windsor Mill man as a “living example of African-American valor.”

During World War I, white American nurses often refused to care for injured black soldiers, Davis told the crowd, which included several hundred veterans and students, and he thanked France for stepping in to care for them.

“They took in our soldiers,” Davis boomed, “and we gave them jazz.”

Michel Charbonnier, the French consul general, returned to Baltimore for the ceremony after last year’s celebration of the centennial of the U.S. entrance into World War I. As he did then, Charbonnier thanked Baltimore for its contribution to the war effort.

He noted that celebrations of the end of what was known as the “War to End All Wars” took place over the weekend on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“At such occasions, we have the opportunity to remember friendship and cooperation,” Charbonnier said. The brotherhood between the two countries began during the Revolutionary War, he said, and was “renewed in the trenches and the mud.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh also pointed to the alliance’s 18th-century roots, mentioning the memorial to the Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War French commander, in Mount Vernon Square.

Thousands of Baltimoreans came out to greet another French commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, who led the Allied forces in France during World War I, during a 1921 visit to Baltimore for the War Memorial’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Pugh said the relationship and the city’s patriotic fervor “will continue to withstand the test of time.”

“Baltimore City and its citizens will revel in the commemorating of Armistice Day,” she said.

While World War I did not end all wars, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes said, “we hope every war and every conflict will be the one to end all conflicts.”

He thanked the veterans for being the foundation of American society.

“Whatever else is happening in our world, whatever else is happening in our country, whatever the division might be,” Sarbanes said, “veterans are the bedrock.”

A table set for one at the ceremony represented prisoners of war and those missing in action.

The Dunbar High School Marching Band and the 229th Army Band of the Maryland National Guard performed, and singer Dorothy Williams belted “Amazing Grace” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

In addition to Dunbar, students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Frederick Douglass High School, Baltimore Freedom Academy, Megenthaler Vocational-Technical School and New Era Academy attended the ceremony, said retired First Sgt. Chester Wilton, executive director of the Baltimore City Veterans Commission.

Keeping people everywhere — especially young people — engaged in history is crucial to ensuring that the sacrifices of veterans, dead and alive, aren’t lost to time.

“We need to protect those who protect us,” he said.

The ceremony was part of a busy birthday weekend for Lewie, his wife said.

The couple, who have been married seven decades, took advantage of a visit from out-of-town family, including a granddaughter, Army Capt. Christel Thompson, who is stationed in Hawaii, to have a birthday dinner Saturday and celebrate an early Thanksgiving on Sunday night.

“It was good to have all the family here,” Reva Lewie said, “all ages — 11 to 99.”

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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