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Charles Jameson becomes first African-American member of Minutemen chapter of the SAR.
Charles Jameson becomes first African-American member of Minutemen chapter of the SAR.

Written by Allison Brophy Champion and reprinted from the 10 December 2016 Culpeper Start Exponent (Virginia)

Vietnam veteran Charles Clifton Jameson served his country honorably like the ancestors who came before him, including his third great grandfather Col. David Jameson, flag bearer for the original Culpeper Minutemen who marched to fight the British during the American Revolution.

The fact that Charles Jameson is black and his ancestor was white reveals a rich, yet suppressed tapestry of shared history of which he is both proud and doggedly curious.

Last week, the 69-year-old retired highway construction manager, college graduate and Army veteran became the first African-American to ever be inducted into the Culpeper Minutemen chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, a patriotic organization comprised of descendants of those who served in the colonial war with the English.

“It made me feel very proud,” said Charles Jameson. “This was something I had known, but didn’t have the whole picture.”

The Jameson brothers and segregation

Jameson became interested in his bloodline a few years ago after a cousin completed genealogy work showing a clear link to Col. David Jameson, born 1752 in Virginia.

David was the brother of the more famous Col. John Jameson, also with the Culpeper Minutemen, who helped thwart Benedict Arnold’s 1780 plot to capture and destroy West Point. Col. Jameson Boulevard in the town of Culpeper was named for the older brother, John, when it was completed two years ago.

Charles Jameson, lighter of complexion, always had a hunch that he had European ancestors even though during segregation in Culpeper County he was considered black. He therefore attended the George Washington Carver Regional High School for African-American students along U.S. 15 and now acts as president of the alumni association.

Growing up in Culpeper, his family socialized and worked with both black and white people, Jameson said.

“Most of the time we were by ourselves—sometimes it’s hard to fit in with any group,” he said. “Too light for one group, but not light enough for the other. It was almost like because you were different from both sides, you were in the middle.”

Charles Jameson recalled his father, the late Saint Jameson, telling him about how when he was a child, he would walk down the street in the town of Culpeper with his white grandfather, George Washington Jameson.

An unlawful union

George Jameson was a Confederate veteran from Culpeper who later fathered 11 children with Ada Tutt, a mixed race woman whose father was Scottish and mother was black. When he died, George left land to all of his children, who according to family lore were well loved and cared for by their father.

George and Ada never married, because it was illegal at the time. In fact it, wasn’t until 1967 that interracial marriage was allowed in Virginia through the landmark Loving case in the Supreme Court.

“Mixed race affairs were frowned upon and people were disenfranchised because of these relationships,” said Charles Jameson.

The fact that George and Ada never married made it challenging to establish Charles’ lineage to David Jameson, said Bill Schwetke, president of the Culpeper Minutemen Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

“Charles has been active in our chapter for over a year and it took that long to gather the evidence to prove his lineage,” he said.

On Dec. 3, with all the paperwork in order, the modern-day Jameson became the newest member of the storied Minutemen chapter at a ceremony conducted after the 241st Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Great Bridge in Chesapeake. David Jameson, in fact, fought at Great Bridge in 1775.

“Charles Jameson is the first African-American member of the Culpeper Minutemen Chapter, which is a reminder of the rich heritage we all share—a heritage that was won by the sacrifices of our ancestors,” Schwetke said.

Jameson said he was honored to know as fact some of the things he had always heard as conjecture. He insisted, however, that he is no more special than any other members of the Sons of the American Revolution.

“I am proud to join them and the good work they do in the community,” Charles Jameson said.

Courageous achievements
At the recent induction ceremony, he was also presented with the Sons’ War Service Medal with Vietnam bar and Purple Heart pin for an injury sustained outside of Saigon in 1971 when Jameson was struck in the head with a piece of shrapnel.

“It was just mortar rounds and a HEAT round that was supposed to burn before it explodes so I just caught a little from it—I was very fortunate,” he said. “At the time, I was worried because of the chemical warfare, but they got it out that night and said you can go back to your unit.”

The Army citation Jameson subsequently received mentioned an “exceptionally meritorious achievement” during which “he surmounted extremely adverse conditions to consistently achieve superior results.”

The complimentary language sounds similar to words used to describe the service of his ancestor Col. David Jameson in an 1839 obituary. He had carried the celebrated Minuteman flag bearing as its emblem the rattlesnake in his coil with the monitory motto, “Don’t tread on me!”

“The courage of David Jameson and his brother was conspicuous,” the obituary said.

Following Great Bridge, David returned to Culpeper to fill his older brother’s post as a clerk of the court, but was frequently called back out with the militia. He became a farmer after the war, was High Sheriff and a state delegate for Culpeper County in 1790 and 1791.

“He was a good soldier in war and a good citizen in peace,” according to David Jameson’s obituary.

In spite of the prejudice he saw at a different time in our country’s history, Charles Jameson accepts his mixed race background that is 70 percent European and 30 percent African, according to DNA analysis.

He identifies as an American, including the colonial side that fought for freedom.

“It is my history too and I feel that no matter what you are you have to recognize it all,” Jameson said.

Val Jamison
December 12th, 2016 10:01 am
Good article! Great American!
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