Carter Cadets

Brooklyn, NY United States

Inactive Junior

CORPS Photos

The Carter Cadets were organized in 1950 by the late Minister and Mrs. Carter, remaining active only as a parade corps, the Cadets captured many parade and standstill contest, contributing in many social and civic events. They won appreciation and respect by the many drum corps followers.

By 1960 the Carter Cadets had achieved all there was to accomplish, in parade and standstill competition, and consequently turned their attention to marching and maneuvering, sponsored by the George P. Davis American Legion Post #116, the Cadets tried and failed to assemble a drill for the 1962 American Legion State contest.

Eager and ambitious the clad blue and white Cadets struggled without instructions but fortunately they didn't lose their desire to rehearse. They gained the respect of the distinguished Robert Notario and Albert D. Koch. Mr. Notario, better known as Pepe of the NY Skyliners, took over the horn line and Mr. Koch worked on the drill. Nat Lewis contributed to the drumline, forming a great alliance.

During those few short months that Pepe and Al were introduced, the corps greatly improved. They rostered a 21 man horn line, 9 man drum line and a 15 girl color guard.

Early in 1963 the Cadets entered the newly organized Liberty Circuit and by June 30th were ready for their first field competition, only to climax that days event by a first place.

The corps entered a few contests that year, capturing 10th position in the NY American Legion State Convention in Rochester NY and the Kings County VFW county title.

Music consisted of "off the line" Excell, It Happened in Sun Valley, Carters theme, the color presentation was Fairest of the Fair, next in line was What Kind of Fool am I, concert was Ruby and I get that Old eeling, Papa loves Mambo and Love Walked In followed.

Written by Wayne Chenault, Staff Secretary, prior to the 1964 season. [Submitted by Vaughn Cropper July 2012]

By Jim Claytor DCW Staff

It's pretty amazing how much we think things change over the years when in all actuality, a lot of our "change" is nothing more than a recreation of our previous experiences,

I'll explain that analogy later on in the story. But right now let's go back about sixty years ago during the 1950's, when we had such issues as, "Brown verses the board of Education (1954), The slaying of 14 year old Emmett Till (1955), or when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger (1955). These were all issues relevant to an era of racial despair, which sadly divided the people of the United States for decades to come. About a week ago I had the chance to interview an African American man present to that era, who explained to me his personal trials and tribulations of being part of an American Drum and Bugle Corps, except all members were African American.

Nat W. Lewis, in 1958 was the American Legion individual snare drum champion for the state of New York. By 1965 he had become the director of one of the first all-African-American drum corps, The Carter Cadets drum and bugle corps from the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn New York.

Previously founded in1950 by the late Pastor Fitz and Miriam Carter, The Carter Cadets had competed throughout their early formative years winning numerous contests and parades, including several appearances in standstill competitions and the famous Brooklyn Day Parade. Once they had incorporated a field show, The Carter Cadets took top honors and won the 1963 Kings County VFW Liberty Championships, giving them a huge boost as a corps and much more notoriety within their community.

This win was a huge accomplishment at the time, especially while establishing themselves outside of the political and racial boundaries that were still ingrained within both races, mostly due to conflicts of the previous decades that still had a slight lingering effect. Starting in 1964 when Mr. Lewis became corps director, he made sure the corps was incorporated, and by 1965, they had over 40 horns, 20 drums, and 26 in the color guard. Their repertoire included great songs like, "I left my heart in San Francisco", "To Sir with love", "Show me" from my fair lady, "Crown Victoria" and many more well-known classics.

While speaking with Mr. Lewis I asked him how did the corps survive financially back then, and what were their dues. Lewis stated "they paid very little dues, collecting was hard enough, and just getting the parents to let the kids come to the corps was even harder at that time the parents would say, what? Do what? March?" He also mentioned that in order for any kid to say in the corps "we made it a prerequisite the kids had to maintain their school work also". Throughout the year the corps would hold several fundraisers and receive numerous donations that significantly helped in keeping the organization on a positive financial note.

After placing 10th in the VFW National Championships against corps like the Troopers, our Lady of Perpetual Help drum and bugle corps, and many thers, The Carter Cadets continued their success by appearing in a feature film titled: "The Education of Sonny Carter", which is still available on Amazon. During the interview, Mr. Lewis said something to me that was really unexpected; I asked him what issues during that time period was a hindrance to the progression of the corps, both psychologically, and from a competitive standpoint. He said, "In drum corps we were all equal, that's the one place where we all felt at home". He continued to say that even within that era of establishing racial equality, "there were never any issues when it came to drum corps people, in drum corps we were all brothers and sisters no matter what the color of your skin was". The Carter Cadets were known as one of the most prominent in all African American drum corps in the United States. The final year of competition for the Carter Cadets was 1969, and eventually folding in 1972.

Though the corps itself has been gone for 38 years, the Carter Cadets Inc. is still functioning mainly as a facilitator, raising funds to purchase instruments and donating them to various musical organizations. I've noticed there has been something rather ironic about the Carter Cadets. The Director of City Sound drum and bugle corps out of Los Angeles, Nathaniel Lewis Jr. happens to be the son of Nat W. Lewis from Brooklyn, New York. Uniforms for The Carter Cadets were blue and white as well as the uniforms for City Sound who thrives on "traditional yet cool". So even though they are three thousand miles apart, change" is nothing more than a recreation of our previous experiences.

Jim Claytor

Members (12)

Member Name Section Years Involved
Cropper (aka Barney), Vaughn 1st and 2nd Euphonium 1966 to 1969
Cropper, Vaughn Baritone 1966 to 1969
Fussell, Martin Snare 1963 to 1964
harrell, nate baritone 1965 to 1966
Lewis, Nat Director 1965 to 1970
Lewis, Nathaniel (Junior) percussion 1975 to 1978
shepherd, gilbert soprano 1961 to 1969
Swain, Barry Drum Major 1967 to 1969
Swain, Barry Color Guard - Drum Major 1967 to 1969
Vaughn, William POO Baritone Section 1968 to 1969
Vaughn, William POO Baritone 1969
No collection items available. Please contact us if you have something to contribute.


No links available