During the first week of May, 1961, Richard Thornell landed in Ghana to lay the groundwork for the arrival of the first Volunteers to be sent overseas. He was stricken with TB the end of August and entered the hospital only five days before the Volunteers stepped off the pane in Accra on August 29, 1961.
A number of dignitaries, however, including Ghana’s Minister of Education A.J. Dowuong-Hammond, were on hand to greet the 50 PCVs, men and women, and their escort officer, Padraic Kennedy, at the big airport on the outskirts of Accra.
In response to expressions of welcome, one of the Volunteers stepped forward and delivered a thank-you for the group in Twi, the principal local language. The Twi was far from perfect, but the fact that Americans would try to speak it at all was met with smiling enthusiasm on the part of the welcoming Ghanaians.
Thornell’s evacuation from Ghana to the U.S. for further medical treatment left Pat Kennedy, then 29, in charge as the only staffer until Representative George Carter arrived five days later. This would make Kennedy the first Peace Corps Country Director.
Born in Philadelphia, George Carter took his degree in philosophy in 1949 at Lincoln University where he was a younger contemporary of Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah. He devoted himself to three years of graduate study in philosophy at Howard University and then joined an extensive study tour of West Africa concentrating on a comparative analysis of French and British colonial policy.
In 1953, he became Asian Secretary of the World Assembly of Youth, which carried him on nine extended journeys working with WAY national committees in Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan.
On one of these journeys, Carter made a stopover pause at Shannon Airport where he bought an Irish Sweepstakes ticket. Six months and twice around the world later, he discovered that Irish authorities were frantically trying to track him down because he had won $10,000.
In February, 1959, he became a full-time consultant to the American Society of African Culture. He prepared a series of tapes for presentation in Guinea designed to give Africans a better understanding of the American Negro.
A research report Carter had done on “The Ancient African Empire: Ghana” became the after-dinner topic of conversation with Nkrumah in a visit Carter paid Ghana’s Prime Minister in 1952 and the two finished the discussion at 4:30 a.m.
For ten years, Carter had researched and classified hundreds of African folk tales and myths. He had also accepted a research grant to complete a book on “The Background of Contemporary African Social Thoughts” when, in March, 1961, he came to the Peace Corps for one month as a consultant.
On September 2,1961, the one-month consultant arrived in Ghana as Representative.
Research Document: Who’s Who in the Peace Corps Overseas Administration (1963)
The photographs are by Rowland Scherman, Paul Conklin and Jim Walls, first photographers for the agency.