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Alex HALEY

American Alex HALEY

born Alexander Murray Palmer HALEY

American writer

Source :  Tim DOWLING

Born: on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York, USA
Died: on February 10, 1992 in Seattle, Washington, USA


Biography

Haley was born in Ithaca, New York. As the oldest of three sons and a daughter to Simon Alexander Haley and Bertha Palmer, Haley lived with his family in Henning, Tennessee before he returned to Ithaca with his family when he was five years old. Haley's father was a professor of agriculture at Cornell University and a decorated World War I veteran. The younger Haley always spoke proudly of his father and the incredible obstacles of racism he had overcome. Alex Haley was enrolled at Alcorn State University at age 15. Two years later he returned to his parents to inform them of his withdrawal from college. Simon Haley felt that Alex needed discipline and growth and convinced his son to enlist in the military when he turned 18. On May 24, 1939, Alex Haley began his 20-year service with the Coast Guard.

He enlisted as a mess attendant and then became a Petty Officer Third Class in the rate of Steward, one of the few rates open to African Americans at that time. His Coast Guard service number was 212-548. It was during his service in the Pacific theater of operations that Haley taught himself the craft of writing stories. It is said that during his enlistment he was often paid by other sailors to write love letters to their girlfriends. He talked of how the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long sea voyages wasn't the Japanese but boredom.

After World War II, Haley was able to petition the Coast Guard to allow him to transfer into the field of journalism, and by 1949 he had become a Petty Officer First Class in the rating of Journalist. He later advanced to Chief Petty Officer and held this grade until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959. He was the first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard.

Haley's awards and decorations from the Coast Guard include the American Defense Service Medal (with "Sea" clasp), American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal (with 1 silver and 1 bronze service star), Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Expert Marksmanship Medal.

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