COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) – Columbus drug dealers couldn’t scare an old Army Ranger who’d done two tours of combat duty in Vietnam, so they gave up.
Here’s how Milton “Davey” Lockett Jr. became a local hero at least twice in his life:
At Fort Benning, he became the Army’s first Black Ranger instructor in 1959.
In the Columbus neighborhood where he retired, he carried out a frontline crime attack in the 1990s and helped launch Carver Heights Against Drugs.
He was inducted into the Rangers’ Hall of Fame in 2001. After he died of prostate cancer in his home on Schaul Street in 2018, the Columbus Police Department named the common room for him. Here the police sometimes coordinate strategy with the leaders of Neighborhood Watch.
Lockett may not be as well known to outsiders, but he’s a legend in the area he set out to defend.
“Even some of the new people who moved in heard of him … from Wynnton Road to Eighth Street and all the streets in between,” said Lockett’s only son Milton Lockett III. “Everyone knew him. Everyone.”
That’s because they knew that: “If they had a problem, they knew he could help,” said the son, remembering that his father would not back down against what he knew was wrong . “He got up and proudly showed, ‘I’m here. We can improve that if we work together. ‘“
That approach worked because the retired sergeant did not have a rank to enforce his moral code, the son said. He was open, direct and respectful of others.
“Dad taught me to be honest and upright. He was always very honest with everyone. He was just one of them. He’s talked to people like that. He was an ordinary guy. “
A modest start
Milton Lockett Jr. was born on February 5, 1935, and was one of seven children whose father worked as a concrete paver. The mixture was trowelled and smoothed after it was poured into a frame to harden.
The father worked in the expanding Atlanta airport. He later got up to oversee the crews and offered his son a job.
But Milton Lockett Jr. decided to take a different course, enlisted in the Army in 1952 at the age of 17, and found the uniform suited his character. After two years he came home and told the high school girlfriend that he would get married later that he would be back for six years.
He served in Korea for about a year, returned to marry Ida Clay in 1955, and moved to a post in Arkansas before the Army sent him to Fort Benning, where he enrolled in Ranger School.
“He did so well at ranger school that they offered him a job as a ranger instructor,” recalls his son, who was born in 1956.
In addition to being an instructor, he was also a “ranger demonstrator” who joined the team that promoted the specialty by demonstrating his skills across the country.
He was among those who appeared for President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The army previously sent him to a demonstration at the segregated University of Alabama, where the white rangers were then invited to a picnic, his son said. The Black Rangers ate on the bus that took them there.
He was nicknamed “Davey” because they played a sketch in which he played Davey Crockett and traveled the wilderness with a backpack carrying his lunch – a selection of live snakes taught to kill and eat, by the Rangers Land to live.
Then came Vietnam.
TWO TOURS AND BACK AT HOME
He did his first tour in 1965 and ’66. He was in an LRRP, pronounced “lurp”, a long-range reconnaissance patrol that peered behind enemy lines.
When asked about a battle story, his son recalls one that his father didn’t find funny for years: he and a buddy were cut off and held on the way back from a mission. Under intense enemy fire, they huddled behind a fallen tree with an upright tree next to it.
When the other Ranger detached a grenade and hurled it, it hit the limbs above them and bounced straight back on them. They defy enemy bullets to stand up and run for their lives. Davey Lockett was wounded by the splinter.
He spent about a year in Benning before the army sent him back to Vietnam in 1968.
“The second tour of Vietnam really did something for him,” said his son. After several years of service with the Rangers here in Benning, he retired from the army in 1972 and took a civilian job, from which he retired in 1999.
In the meantime, the house on Schaulstrasse has become a meeting place for children from the neighborhood. Some came to get Lockett to teach them judo and other hand-to-hand combat skills.
Around 1991 the children told him about a neighbor in their eighties who could not leave their home because the drug dealers hid their hiding place in their garden outside.
The former ranger did not go over and order them to leave. He went over and escorted the woman to the shop and any other place she needed to go. He did this over and over until the dealers moved on.
Lockett didn’t have to threaten them, his son said, “If you watched his body language and intensity, you’d get the message, ‘I’m not the one to mess with.'”
THE LAST FIGHT
After helping found Carver Heights Against Drugs, he kept that pressure on, pegging and staring at the locations set up by the dealers. “You couldn’t sell drugs if someone was watching you on the street,” his son recalled.
They couldn’t intimidate a man who had been exposed to death so many times.
He was faced with it again when he was first diagnosed with cancer. He was treated and the cancer went into remission for 11 years.
But it eventually recovered, leaving him in hospice care for his final days.
Even so, he wasn’t afraid, because death came on June 27, 2018 when he was 86 years old.
His son recalls some of his father’s last words:
“I know that I am in the hospice, which means that I have reached the end of my life,” he told his family. “I know this will kill me. But I don’t worry because I’ve faced death so many times. Maybe I can’t beat it this time. “
He left his memory, honor and influence.
“He always tried to fight things that he thought were wrong,” said his son, for whom Davey Lockett remains a hero.
“I’ve always wanted to be like my father.”