From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Olive, Lewis Cortez, Jr.

(born: October 27, 1930  -  died: November 20, 2006) Lewis C. Olive, Jr. was one of the first African Americans from Kentucky to be appointed to West Point Military Academy, appointed by New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell. Olive graduated from West Point in 1955, the same year that Julius E. Price, Sr. was appointed to West Point by Kentucky Senator Earle C. Clements. Lewis Olive's appointment predated that of Julius Price, Sr., who was one of the first African Americans in Kentucky to be appointed by a Kentucky Congressman. James Phillip Holland from Bowling Green was appointed to West Point in 1954 by Republican Senator John Sherman Cooper with a recommendation by Kentucky State College President R. B. Atwood. Holland chose to attend Kentucky State University instead. 

Lewis C. Olive, Jr. accepted his appointment to West Point. He was born in Louisville, KY, the son of Lewis Sr. and Catherine Brown Olive. A 1949 graduate of Central High School, he received the Bausch & Lomb honorary science award. He was also considered a track star in high school. He broke the freshman track record while attending the University of California, Berkley for three semesters. He next attended the Military Academy preparatory school in Newburg, NY, where he won a national junior Amateur Athletic Union 1,000 yard race. He also played football at the school.



Starting in July of 1951, Olive attended West Point. In December of that year, he received the Army Commendation Ribbon for helping to rescue several persons in a burning building in Syracuse, NY. He was the first African American captain of the West Point track team In 1952, he was considered an Olympic track prospect, and he was hoping to become a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic track team and running the mile. His best time in 1953 was 4:11. The American record was 4:02:4, held by Wes Santee of Kansas. He did not make the Olympics but was an All-American and held the school record for the mile.

In June 1955, Lewis Olive became one of the few African Americans from Kentucky to graduate from West Point Military Academy. [Charles D. Young was the first Kentucky African American to graduate from West Point.] After his graduation, First Lt. Lewis C. Olive, Jr. was with the Strategic Air Command of the U.S. Air Force. In 1966, he was a captain and had been in the Air Force for 11 years, during which time he received a number of recognitions. In 1971 Olive, no longer in the military, served as the Director of Veteran Affairs for the National Urban League. Louis C. Olive, Jr. was living in New York when he died in 2006.

Sources: see Lewis Cortez Olive, Jr. at Find A Grave; "World brotherhood is keynote of commencement at Central High," The Courier-Journal, 6/1/1948, p. 18; "First Kentucky Negro enrolls at West Point," The Courier-Journal, 7/8/1951, p. 14; "Cadet, son of man here, cited for rescue work," The Courier-Journal, 12/13/1951, p. 36; "Louisville miler hopes to make 1956 Olympics, "The Courier-Journal, 8/6/1953, p.23; "Louisville Negro is graduated from West  Point," The Courier-Journal, 6/10/1955, p. 19; "Olive heads Chestnut 'Y' annual drive: 3 Sons service officers," The Courier-Journal, 3/3/1959, p. 11; Earl Ruby, "Ruby's Report: Capt. Olive (as in branch) is due 3rd military honor," The Courier-Journal, 6/17/1966, p. B6; Jerry T. Baulch, "Disabled vets hardest hit by unemployment," Messenger and Inquirer, 4/19/1971, front page; U.S. Social Security Death Index (Ancestry); and Lew Olive webpage at WestPoint.org.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)
NKAA Source: Owensboro messenger-inquirer (newspaper)
NKAA Entry: Young, Charles D.
NKAA Entry: Price, Julius Elliott, Sr.
NKAA Entry: Holland, James Phillip

Related Entries Citing this Entry

none

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Olive, Lewis Cortez, Jr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed February 21, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/index.php/items/show/300004568.

Last modified: 2023-07-10 17:11:38