Buffalo Soldiers Museum
Editor's Note: This story originally ran in January 2015.
Clyde Robinson was born Nov. 20, 1920, in Gillett, Ark., just south of Little Rock.
One of 10 children, Robinson grew up on a rice farm. As far as his eyes could see, he could only see rice fields.
I dont like rice, the 94-year-old Robinson said from the living room of his Seattle home. Ill eat it, but its not my favorite. We mostly ate potatoes.
To get away from rice, Robinson became a lumberjack. But in 1942 he received a draft letter making him a Soldier in the Armys Ninth Cavalry.
Robinson soon became one of the illustrious Buffalo Soldiers, a name given to the African-American regiments by the Native Americans during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Congress authorized the creation of the Ninth and 10th Cavalry and 38th - 41st Infantry Regiments in 1866. They fought during World War I and World War II before being disbanded.
A lot of people dont know about us, Robinson said. I didnt know anything about what the Buffalo Soldiers did in the Civil War. They dont teach you that in schools.
Robinson enjoys educating people about the Buffalo Soldiers. He even has a blue and yellow Civil War era uniform that he wears a saber completes the look. His passion for those who served in the cavalry is matched by Jackie Jones-Hook. Jones-Hook operates the Ninth and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum at 1940 S. Wilkeson St. in Tacoma. Its only one of two Buffalo Soldiers museums located off military installations. It was founded by her father, William Jones, a former Buffalo Soldier who served with the 10th Cavalry from 1940-44.
Tacoma is really a military town, Jones-Hook said. A lot of people who live here have served in the military. He got this idea that theres such a great history of what these men really did for America, so he wanted to do this museum outside of a military installation.
On Joint Base Lewis-McChord, there are two museums the Lewis Army Museum and the McChord Air Museum. Both offer free admission, but donations are appreciated.
In 2005, Jones decided he wanted to preserve the history of the Buffalo Soldiers with a museum. He spent much of his life collecting artifacts and literature about the Buffalo Soldiers. He bought the house on Wilkeson Street with the intention of turning it into a museum. William Jones died in 2009 and now his daughter runs the museum along with a board of directors. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 3p.m., Wednesdays and Saturdays, or by appointment.
Our mission overall is to educate, preserve and present the history and the contributions of the black men in the building of America, Jones-Hook said. But also to highlight and say thank you to all those who have served.
Despite being a few years old, the museum is relatively unknown. To help promote it, Jones-Hook is busy preparing for a special tribute event featuring actor Danny Glover. The event is scheduled for Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Ste. 700 in Tacoma. A special meet-and-greet with the actor will take place at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $19-$49.
Robinson is planning to attend the event and speak to the audience about his time with the Buffalo Soldiers. While he was drafted, Robinson said the cavalry was mostly volunteers. Robinson describes his time in the Army as hard.
They told you theres only one way the Army way, he said. It was hard, very hard. Them big city boys couldnt handle it.
During his time in the Army, Robinson traveled to North Africa, Italy and the South Pacific. He served in a machine-gun troop.
I was good with machine guns, but I wasnt too good with a rifle, he said.
Having grown up on a farm, Robinson was comfortable with horses and found that aspect of the military to be easy.
On Dec. 26, 1945, Robinson was out of the Army and living on a ship in Tacoma.
We stayed on the ship for seven days looking for a place to put us up, Robinson said.
He recalls the difficulty Soldiers faced once the cavalry was disbanded. Some Soldiers had been in the cavalry for 20 years and suddenly were being sent to separate units.
After youve been in something, 15-20 years, and then it just disappears that affected a lot of people, Robinson said. The white organizations, they busted up a lot of those cavalry outfits, too, but they sent them to mechanized (infantry), tanks and all that ... but most of the black cavalry, like the ninth and 10th, they sent them to labor.
Robinson was sent to a port battalion and then, after a year of doing that, he left the Army. He said transitioning out of the Army was a challenge.
When you go overseas, you were treated the same, but when you came back to the states it was just different in how we were treated, he said.
Robinson recalls going with another Soldier to the YMCA in Tacoma to get cleaned up.
Me and my partner, they wouldnt even let us take a shower that was very hard, he said. One lady issues us the towels and everything and another came out and said, they cant take no shower here. They said we had to go to a place down the street.
Despite those frustrations, Robinson spent 10 years at sea as a room steward working on a military transport. During that time, his ship hauled Soldiers and dependents back and forth from Japan, Korea and China. Robinson said he favorite place was Panama.
Ive been to Rome too, but I just liked Panama, he said.
Eventually Robinson found his home in Seattle working for Boeing as a forklift operator. Hes since retired from that job, but he still works as a gardener.
I cant sit still, Robinson said. I always have to be doing something.
In the basement of his home, the walls are covered in pictures and memorabilia chronicling the history of the Buffalo Soldiers. He even has a picture of himself and Jones.
Similar stories and artifacts can be found on the walls inside the Tacoma Buffalo Soldiers Museum. There, visitors can learn how the Soldiers built forts, installed telegraph lines, and fought in the front lines during WWII. There are also books and media educating the public about the different things the Buffalo Soldiers were charged with.
Its a story about love and survival during tough times, Jones-Hook said. And certainly its about heroes. These men are often called the forgotten heroes, but they did a lot for America.
Fore more information on the Buffalo Soldiers museum or the Danny Glover event, call 253-272-4257 or visit buffalosoldierstacoma.org.
Lewis Army Museum is located on Constitution Drive on Lewis North. It is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For more information visit www.lewis-mcchord.army.mil/dptms/
McChord Air Museum is located on Eighth St. and 18th St. in Building 517. It is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays - Fridays. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For more information visit www.mcchordairmuseum.org.
The Washington State History Museum is located at1911 Pacific Ave. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. On the third Thursday of the month, the museum is open until 8 p.m. with free admission from 2 to 8 p.m. Admission is free to Historical Society members and children five years and under; $8 for senior citizens, active and retired military and students ages six to 17 years; $11 for adults. For more information visit www.washingtonhistory.org.
The Tacoma Arm Museum is located at 1701 Pacific Ave. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the third Thursday of the month, the museum is open until 8 p.m. with free admission. Admission is $12 for senior citizens, military members and students; $14 for adults and free for children 5 years and younger. For more information visit www.tacomaartmuseum.org.
The Museum of Glass is located at 1801 Dock St. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 for kids ages five to 12; $12 for senior citizens, students 13 years and up and military members; $12 for AAA members and $15 for adults. For more information visit museumofglass.org.
The Tacoma Childrens Museum is located at 1501 Pacific Ave. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Sundays. On the third Thursday of the month, the museum is open until 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For more information visit www.playtacoma.org.
The Karples Manuscript Museum is located at 407 S. G St. It is open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more information visit www.rain.org/~karpeles/taqfrm.html.
The Foss Waterways Seaport is located at 705 Dock St. It is closed during the offseason, but will reopen in the Spring. Admission is free to Seaport members and children under the age of five, $8 for adults and $5 for children five years and older, military and senior citizens. For more information visit www.fosswaterwayseaport.org.
The Job Carr Cabin Museum is located at 2350 N. 30th St. On Feb. 4 it will resume regular business hours. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For more information visit www.jobcarrmuseum.org.
The Shanaman Sports Museum of Tacoma is attached to the Tacoma Dome at 2727 E. D St. It is open during sporting events hosted at the Tacoma Dome. Admission is free, however visitors must be attending the event at the Tacoma Dome to enter. For more information visit www.tacomasportsmuseum.com.
The LeMay Car Museum is located at 2702 East D. St. It is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission free for members and children five years and under; $8 for kids six to 12 years-old; $12 for students; $14 for senior citizens and military members and $16 for adults. is For more information visit www.lemaymuseum.org.
The Fort Nisqually living history museum is located at Point Defiance Park. It is open from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For exhibit and admission information visit http://tinyurl.com/lx9yqpk
The Lakewood Historical Society museum is located at 6211 Mt. Tacoma Dr. SW. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. It is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturday. For more information visit www.lakewoodhistorical.org.
The Discovery Village childrens museum is located at 4835 Borgen Blvd. NW. Admission is free for members and supervising adults; $8.50 for children 12 months to 12 years-old and $6 for siblings. It is open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information visit www.discovery-village.com.
The Harbor History Museum is located at 4121 Harborview Dr. Admission is free to members and children six years-old and younger; $6 for senior citizens and military members and $7 for adults. It is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information visit www.harborhistorymuseum.org.
The Hands On Childrens Museum is located at 414 Jefferson St. NE. Admission is free to members and babies 12 months and younger; $8.95 for senior citizens and military members and $10.95 for general admission. It is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. The Outdoor Discovery Center closes at dusk.. For more information visit www.hocm.org.
The historic Sand Man tugboat is located in downtown Olympia. It is open most weekends and is free to the public. For more information visit www.tugsandman.org.
The Washington State Capital museum is located at 211 21st Ave. SW. It is currently closed for renovations, but public programs will continue as planned. Visit www.washingtonhistory.org/visit/scm for updates.
The Olympic Flight Museum is located at 7691 Old Highway 99 SE. Admission is free for children six years-old and younger; $5 for ages seven-12 and $7 for adults. It is open from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information visit www.olympicflightmuseum.com.
The Olympic Historical Society and Bigelow House museum is located at 918 Glass Ave. NE. Admission for guided tours of the house interior is a suggestion of $5 for adults; $3 for students and senior citizens and $1 for ages 12 and under. The welcome room exhibit is open to visitors free of charge. For more informaiton visit olympiahistory.org/wp.