Professor’s story told at National World War II Museum

Reby Cary, UTA’s first African American professor, featured in WWII exhibit

Friday, Apr 19, 2024 • Cristal Gonzalez : contact

Reby Cary holding a megaphone
Original image part of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Identifier: AR406-6-8271 [Frame 30]

A new exhibit at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans features the story of Reby Cary, a Coast Guardsman and the first African American professor at The University of Texas at Arlington.

UTA Libraries Special Collections worked with the museum and supplied a photo of Cary from the UTA News Service Photograph Collection for the exhibit.

Cary taught the University's first African American history courses and launched the Minority Cultures Collection with UTA Libraries. He was also the associate dean of student affairs and UTA's first African American administrator. Before coming to the University, he served as a radio operator in the Coast Guard aboard the USS Cambria, an attack transport ship, in the Pacific theater during World War II. 

In a 2007 interview that is part of the Veterans History Project with the Library of Congress, Cary spoke about what he saw during battles at Saipan and Okinawa. You can view the full 2007 interview with Cary on the Library of Congress' website.

Rob Citino, a distinguished fellow with the National World War II Museum, said museum staff wanted to look at how the legacy and impact of World War II resonated with the civil rights movement through today. When they read Cary's story, they knew it would be a perfect fit.

"Many African Americans came back and were not only proud of their service records, as all Americans were, but they pitched in to change the country in a positive fashion," Citino said. "We really think that is an important legacy of World War II."

After being discharged from the Coast Guard in 1945, Cary worked in education, helping to establish McDonald College of Industrial Arts, a trade school for African American veterans, in 1946 in Fort Worth.

He later taught at Dunbar High School and Tarrant County Junior College before coming to UTA. While at UTA, Cary was elected to the Fort Worth school board. He later served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1979-1985 and held numerous positions in civic organizations.

"Reby Cary was a man who broke down walls and then walked through the gaps he had created to make things better for African Americans and all Americans,” Citino said.

- Written by Andy Branca - UTA Libraries