Big names like Sen. John McCain, Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates dominated Don't Ask, Don't Tell news stories last week, leaving one important man largely in the shadows, Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel and co-writer of the Pentagon's pivotal repeal report.
Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller recently sat down with Johnson, and in today's New York Times offers some familial background to the lawyer's current work.
That background, peppered with racial discrimination in the military, helps illuminate how a DADT repeal would work today.
In addition to touching on Johnson's work as Air Force counsel under the Clinton Administration, and the fact that he was the first black partner at his former law firm, Bumiller reveals that Johnson's grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman -- African-American pilots who flew in World War II -- imprisoned for ten days after participating in the Freeman Field Mutiny, a 1945 protest in which black airmen tried to cross the racial lines at a whites-only officers' club. President Truman integrated the troops three years later, in 1948.
While Johnson makes clear that anti-gay and racist discrimination are different, with race being far more obvious and therefore a "self-identifier," he does tell Bumiller that there are many parallels between an armed force segregated by color and one segregated by sexuality, particularly with regard to our military's collective ability to conform.