Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
Enlisted in the U.S. Navy, 1940; First Class Mate [sic] Attendant aboard battleship Oklahoma in the Battle of Pearl Harbor, did sacrifice his life to save his shipmates, December 7, 1941.
Location. 33° 30.942′ N, 86° 48.82′ W. Marker is in Birmingham, Alabama, in Jefferson County. Marker can be reached from 16th Street North north of 5th Avenue. Touch for map. Located inside Kelly Ingram Park which is between 16th and 17th Streets, North; and 5th and 6th Avenues (south of I-20 and east of I-65). It is diagonally northeast (across the intersection) from the 16th Street Baptist Church National Historic Landmark. Marker is at or near this postal address: 520 16th Street, North, Birmingham AL 35203, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dr. Ruth J. Jackson (a few steps from this marker); Carrie A. Tuggle (a few steps from this marker); Pauline Bray Fletcher (a few steps from this marker); Foot Soldier Tribute (within shouting distance of this marker); Arthur D. Shores The Foot Soldiers (within shouting distance of this marker); The Children's Crusade (within shouting distance of this marker); Ground Zero (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Birmingham.
More about this marker. Adjacent to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, amidst heroic outdoor statuary commemorating the triumphant Civil Rights Campaign of 1963.
Regarding Julius Ellsberry. Mess Attendant First Class (MAtt1/c) Julius Ellsberry was one of 62 Black men killed in the Battle of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Along with 17 men killed who were of Guamanian or Filipino extraction, they were all members of the navy’s racially segregated messman/steward branch. Eighteen of these men (including Johnnie C. Laurie of Alabama) died with Ellsberry aboard USS Oklahoma together with 315 White enlisted men and 20 officers.
Ellsberry’s name was among the first of the battle’s fatalities’ to be leaked to the press, and he was immediately identified as the first Alabamian to be killed in WWII. When a subsequent navy press release reported the heroism of an un-named Black mess attendant, many also connected Ellsberry’s name to this individual who was subsequently identified as Texas-born, MAtt2/c Doris Miller of the USS West Virginia.
Ellsberry’s status as the first Alabama servicemember killed in action was re-affirmed in Birmingham after the war, and a city park in a Black section of the city was eventually named in his honor. Ultimately, his memorial marker was erected in the once racially segregated (Whites-only) Kelly Ingram Park, a memorial itself to the heroism of another sailor from Birmingham, Gunner’s Mate Osmond Kelly Ingram, the first enlisted navy man killed in WWI and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. This park was also the locale of bloody confrontations between police and Black citizens protesting the brutal treatment given non-violent demonstrators during the pivotal Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign of 1963.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Also see . . . The Messman Chronicles: African-Americans in the U.S. Navy, 1932-1943. (Submitted on October 16, 2007, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
— Submitted October 14, 2007, by Michael C Locker MD of Chicago, Illinois.
Additional keywords. Mess Attendant, Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, USS Oklahoma, Pearl Harbor casualties.
Categories. • African Americans • Heroes • War, World II • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on July 25, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 14, 2007, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 5,900 times since then and 68 times this year. Last updated on March 15, 2013, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1. submitted on October 14, 2007, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2. submitted on May 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.