Charles Foster

Charles Foster, the first black graduate of The Citadel, joined the Corps of Cadets 50 years ago. He will be honored at the Bulldogs' homecoming game Saturday. 

Fifty years ago, Charles Foster, an honors student at the former Charles A. Brown High School in Charleston, reported to The Citadel as the first black student to join the S.C. Corps of Cadets.

Foster was just 17 when he matriculated in 1966. He graduated in 1970 as a business major, a member of "G" Company and the first African-American to get through the military school. He served in the Army and died in a Texas house fire in 1986, having never married and without children.

Foster's breaking of the color line at the school never received the attention of other desegregation stories of the 1960s, or of the female pioneer cadets at The Citadel in the 1990s.

But The Citadel Minority Alumni Association aims to change that this weekend during the Bulldogs' homecoming game against Samford. The Minority Alumni Association will present a check for $123,000 to school president Lt. Gen. John Rosa. The funds will go to several of The Citadel Foundation minority scholarships in Foster's honor.

And Foster will be recognized just before halftime of the 2 p.m. game against Samford University at Johnson Hagood Stadium, with his brother, William, among those in attendance. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott recently read a statement into the Congressional Record honoring Charles Foster.

Lamont Melvin, a 1991 Citadel graduate and chair of the Minority Alumni Association, said the recognition of Foster's contributions to The Citadel is overdue.

"We have some alumni who are frankly disenfranchised, and what we're trying to do is bring these individuals back to the school," Melvin said. "We want them to be more active and we want the school to recognize the contributions of African Americans."

Melvin said Rosa and the chair of the school's Board of Visitors "embraced" the idea of recognizing Foster at homecoming.

"There were scant news articles about (Foster) at the time, and it wasn't treated as a big deal at the time," Melvin said. "There are reports by some that he had struggles after attending The Citadel, and they tend to focus on that. Our position is that he is a trailblazer worthy of recognition by a grateful group of African-American Citadel alumni."

Melvin said minority alumni from the class of 1974 through the 2000s contributed to the scholarship donation.

"It was a broad-based endeavor across classes," he said. "This is a big deal to us."

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Reach Jeff Hartsell at (843) 937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC