LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Retired U.S. Army Col. Anthony Polk sensed things were going to be different the day the city bus dropped him off at the front door of McNeese's Kaufman Hall. Joining the ROTC, he earned the rank of Cadet Lt. Colonel, which made him the brigade adjutant.
“So I was the guy who had to walk out in front of a thousand white boys with rifles to come to attention,” laughed Polk. “And they did. The biggest worry I had though was tripping over my big feet walking out there on the field.”
This was the early 1960s, and the school had just been integrated. He was the first black student to be commissioned into the Army Medical Service Corps.
“This helped break down some of the barriers and walls that existed at McNeese in the sixties and over time a lot of white colleagues and I got to be good friends.”
Polk served as deputy director of the Army’s blood program during the Vietnam War.
“Blood that was coming from the states, we would repackage it and re-ice it and distribute it to military hospitals all up and down Vietnam.”
After the war, Polk directed the U.S. European military blood program and when he retired, took another job with the National American Red Cross, coordinating their blood products program. Polk was honored October 12 by McNeese State University as a distinguished alumnus at the school.