On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. It marked a milestone in the struggle to extend civil, political, and legal rights and protections to African Americans, including former slaves and their descendants, and to end segregation in public and private facilities. 

In recognition of the 60th anniversary of this landmark legislation, the museum is broadcasting a recorded panel discussion it convened in 2023 related to another civil rights milestone—President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981 to de-segregate the armed services. Panelists discuss the events leading up to the signing, its wide-sweeping ramifications to the military, and the Executive Order’s legacy in light of modern-day race relations. The panel will be moderated by Samuel Cox, RADM (Ret), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command. Special guest, Dr. Kurt Graham, Director, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, makes introductory remarks. 

If you have questions about this program, email paul.h.perry4.civ@us.navy.mil.

photos of panel members

L to R: Samuel Cox, Kurt Graham, PhD; Eddie Valentin, PhD; Gilbert Elliott Jr.; Lori E. Chestang; Charles “Chuck” Dansby; Darren Skinner

Participant Bios

Rear Admiral (retired) Sam Cox has served as the Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command since 2014. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980, winning the Trident Scholar and History Department Prizes. He then served as a naval intelligence officer for 33 years, including in key assignments during Desert Storm, Haiti intervention, Kosovo campaign, and initial combat operations in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, as well as the commanding officer for the U.S. Central Command Joint Intelligence Center. His last two assignments before retiring from active duty in 2013 were as Director of Intelligence (J2) for U.S. Cyber Command and Commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence as the senior intelligence officer in the Navy.

Admiral Cox is currently responsible for the Navy’s official history programs, operational archives, Navy Department Library, and the Navy’s collection of historic artifacts, photographs, art, weapons, and 1,100 display aircraft, and for the underwater archaeology program. He is also responsible for ten official U.S. Navy museums, including the historic submarine Nautilus, and for maintenance of the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat. As the Federal Executive Agent for the U.S. Sunken Military Craft Act, he is also responsible for more than 3,000 U.S. Navy shipwrecks and more than 14,000 aircraft wrecks.

His awards include the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, four Navy Unit Commendations, among many others, and being named an “Honorary Survivor” by the survivors of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35).

Dr. Kurt Graham has been Director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum since 2015. Prior to that he was Director of the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, UT, where he spearheaded the development and redesign of the museum's principal history exhibit.

He has also served as the director of the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY. As director, he orchestrated the digitization of some of the library's most important archival collections; oversaw the physical renovation of the library's public spaces; managed the center's fellowship program; and launched a documentary editing project, The Papers of William F. Cody.

Before working in the public history field, Dr. Graham was a member of the history faculty at California State University, San Bernardino, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in American political and constitutional history. He received a Ph.D. in American history from Brown University and holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brigham Young University in English and American Studies, respectively. He is the author of To Bring Law Home: The Federal Judiciary in Early National Rhode Island (Northern Illinois University Press, 2010).

Eddie Valentin Jr. received his bachelor of science in history from the United States Military Academy in 2010 and his doctorate in history from Rice University in May 2020. In 2016, Dr. Valentin began working at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, Texas, as an assistant curator. He worked as a curator at the National Museum of the United States Navy from July 2020 to March 2024. His research area focuses on race and identity in the U.S. military, and his work has appeared in the scholarly journal, Civil War History. He is working on a book manuscript, Black Men in Army Blue: Race, Citizenship, and Military Occupation, 1866-1900, currently under a publishing contract with the University of Virginia Press.

Gilbert Elliott Jr. is a 32-year veteran of the Marine Corps, and began his civil service career in 1997, as Supervisor, Executive Transportation Section, Naval District Washington (NDW), where he was responsible for moving Navy and Marine Corps Flag officers, senior executive service (SES) and congressional staff in and around the metropolitan Washington area. In January 2000, he was selected to be NDW’s Assistant Deputy to the South Area Operations Officer during which time he was competitively selected for the Deputy North Area Operations Officer. From June 2001 until October 2005, he worked for the Chief Operating Officer, NDW, where he was responsible for the management and supervision of an eight-person core team overseeing base operating support to 18 Navy mission commands at installations in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. One of the major accomplishments during his time as deputy was the logistical task of overseeing relocation of 11 Navy mission commands from the Nebraska Avenue Complex to various bases and installation on the East Coast. He is currently NSA Washington Deputy Commander and Community Security Liaison Officer. His personal civilian awards include the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award and the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.

Lori E. Chestang is a 20-year Navy veteran, and a retired Navy commander. Her last assignment was at the Pentagon serving as both the Director of Administration for the Director, Navy Staff, and most recently as the director for the Navy’s Performance to Plan (P2P) program, now known as the Navy Problem Solving Office (PSO). In this role, she was responsible for leading the team whose focus was improving operational results for some of the Navy’s most important readiness challenges including aviation mission-capable performance and shipyard maintenance.  Her other active-duty assignments included Operations Officer, USS Underwood (FFG-36) and the USS Hue City (CG-66), as the executive officer. She has also served onboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) as well as USS Benfold (DDG-65), where she was featured in the book Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground by Robert D. Kaplan while conducting humanitarian operations in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004. Ms. Chestang has a bachelor of arts in political science from Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, and was commissioned through the Morehouse College Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Unit. She has a master's degree in National Security and Strategic Studies form the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and is a sought-after subject matter expert in leadership, engineering, and in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space.

Charles “Chuck Dansby says he joined the Navy to see the world. Once enlisted, he trained to become a nuclear power reactor operator within the Navy Nuclear Power Propulsion community. He is proud having achieved a series of “firsts” related to his training including being the first African American to graduate Navy Nuclear Power School in Bainbridge, Maryland; Nuclear Propulsion Prototype Training Unit studies in Saratoga Springs, NY; the first African American to be assigned leading petty officer of a nuclear-powered submarine, among other firsts. He also served on USS Enterprise (CVN-65) – being one of the first African Americans in the Navy to hold the position of head of a carrier nuclear propulsion department. He’s currently a supervisory program and management analyst, assigned to the Strategy and Future Shore Integrated Requirements Directorate (N5), as branch director for Resources Management (N55). In this role he develops the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) and Models for CNIC programs. He actively supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) throughout the CNIC shore enterprise.

Darren J. Skinner was commissioned as a naval officer in September 1992 after having served six years as an enlisted Electronics Technician. He trained as a naval aviator in May 1995 eventually piloting MH-53E helicopters during the remainder of his naval career. His other active duty assignments included USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964), HM-15 (Airborne Mine Countermeasures Helicopter Squadron), USS Wasp (LHD-1), HM-14 (Airborne Mine Countermeasures Helicopter Squadron), Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), and Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic (HSCWL). On USS Wasp, he served as the aircraft handler and deployed to the Middle East participating in Operation Enduring Freedom. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College with a master's in national security and strategic studies. A retired Navy commander, Mr. Skinner is currently the Airfield Management Program Analyst for Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Air Operations N32 staff, located at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., where he has worked since November 2019. He serves as the subject matter expert on all matters regarding airfield operations plans, programs, and concepts of operations as they apply to headquarters, region, and Navy airfield commands. Additionally, he executes enterprise-wide oversight and recurring evaluations of Airfield Manager’s Internal Controls Program for all Navy airfield installations worldwide, identifying inadequacies and recommending corrective action. He also assists the HQ Air Ops Program Director in establishing policy and overseeing the efficiency and effectiveness of airfield support processes.

Note: This virtual program will air on the museum’s Facebook page on the date and time indicated.