Jehu Callis Hunter
92nd Infantry Division

December 19, 2005 - Jehu Callis Hunter, Buffalo Soldier and Scientist, Dies at 83

Jehu Callis Hunter, a retired scientist administrator with the National Institutes of Health and a historian of the Buffalo Soldiers unit in which he served during World War II, died of pneumonia Dec. 7 at Laurel (Md.) Regional Hospital. He was 83.

Hunter, a native Washingtonian and 1943 Howard University ROTC graduate, entered the Army in 1943 and was assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division of the 5th Army.

The unit, organized in 1917 and reactivated in 1942, was made up of African American troops, although the highest-level officers were white. The soldiers wore a buffalo shoulder patch that symbolically tied them to the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments of the post-Civil War era in the American West, who were dubbed “Buffalo Soldiers” purportedly because their dark skin and hair reminded Indians of the American bison.

The 92nd Infantry was assigned to northern Italy, where they encountered fierce fighting by German and Italian troops. Re-supplies were more than difficult, requiring ferrying by mules. The division lost 555 men.

Hunter, a communications officer, rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1985, he co-wrote with Lt. Col. Major Clark “The Buffalo Division in World War II,” an unpublished history of the 92nd Infantry. At a reunion of the division in 1987, Hunter reflected on the unit’s lack of success in major combat.

The replacements “got their training on the job. The attrition began to take its toll. If you’re replacing ... with people who are not well-trained, you are going to have problems,” he told a Washington Post reporter.

The white officers, many of whom were unwillingly assigned to the segregated unit, were rotated quickly and had little or no respect for the troops, the soldiers at the reunion said. Later investigations into why the unit was not more successful pinned the blame on lack of training, command failures and racism. A report on that was one of the factors that led to the Army’s decision to integrate its units several years later.

“The black soldier had to fight two enemies, the enemy on the battlefield and the burden of racism that affected his outlook,” Hunter said.

Hunter remained in the Reserve after the war and pursued post-graduate studies at Howard University. He was recalled to active duty for service in Korea.

Hunter joined the National Cancer Institute as a biologist in 1947 and presented his cancer research at several international symposiums. He held the positions of assistant director for planning in the National Institutes of Health’s Biological Sciences division, chief in the Office of Planning and Analysis, and assistant director for program development at the Center for Research for Mothers and Children.

In the last position, he was responsible for the creation of a national network of research centers for diseases of pregnancy, infancy and childhood, including research on sudden infant death syndrome. His work in this field led to his induction into the Royal Society of Medicine.

His marriage to Francesca Castelli Ferguson ended in divorce. His second wife, Frances Simons Kraft, died in 1992.

Survivors include his wife, Edith Francis Hunter of Chapel Oaks, Md.; three children from his first marriage, Joyce Woodford of Grasonville, Md., Maria Northington of Bowie, Md., and Roberto Hunter of Greenwich, Conn.; two stepsons, Benjamin Kraft of Houston and Leon Kraft of Baton Rouge, La.; a brother, Alain E. Hunter of Washington; and 11 grandchildren.  Patricia Sullivan, Canton Repository (subscription) - Canton,OH,USA

Page last revised 07/13/2007