MATT2c Randolph Jr. Williamson

Unknown Sailor

MATT2c Randolph Jr. Williamson

Randolph Williamson Jr. was the only child of Minnie Glenn Williamson, a homemaker, and Randolph Williamson, a plasterer. He was born June 4, 1918.

The son was seven when his mother died of dementia praecox — now known as schizophrenia. Her death certificate listed “gunshot wound of chest (suicidal)” as a contributory cause.

Mr. Williamson graduated from Washington High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then enlisted in the Navy on October 11, 1938.

He was a mess attendant first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Since the Wilson Administration, mess attendant was the only Navy job open to sailors who were Black or from Guam or the Philippines. Messmen cooked, cleaned, and performed other services. They could advance to become stewards or cooks for officers up to petty officer first class, but that was their limit.

If not for the color of his skin, a high school graduate such as Mr. Williamson in all likelihood would have been able to qualify for a better job. Fewer than half of Americans had high school diplomas back then, and many men on the Arizona had never advanced past the 8th grade.

Mr. Williamson enlisted, his friend Charles Irving recalled years later, so he could help his father and step-mother.


Sources: The News and Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina; Navy muster roll; Census; North Carolina death certificate. Newspaper photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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