Okay, Who Was First PCV on the Job?

I’ve written about Pat Kennedy before. He was one of those early ‘Mad Men’ of the agency and in 1961 was the only agency training officer and set up the first Peace Corps training programs. Kennedy was also the escort officer for the Ghana I Volunteers. That group arrived in-country on the afternoon of August 30 (or the afternoon of  September 1, 1961,) on a  Pan American DC-7 that had painted on the fuselage, Peace Corps Clipper. John Demos, a PCV on that flight, is quoted in Come As You Are written by Coates Redmon and published in 1986 that “We were set down in Accra on the afternoon of September 1, 1961.”

 It had taken the PCVs twenty-one hour to reach Africa according to Kennedy, but others on-board said it took twenty-three hours (but after all those hours who’s counting?)

Gerard T. Rice in his book The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, published in 1985, has Ghana PCVs arriving on August 30, and the Tanzania Volunteers arriving a day later.

In a recent note to me Pat Kennedy writes: “I don’t know who was the first trainee, but Tom Livingston (Ghana I) was the first PCV to reach his volunteer assignment in the field. He arrived  at his assignment at Ghanata where he was a teacher.”

Rice confirms that with a statement in his book: “On September 12, 2961, Tom Livingston of Wood Dale, Illinois became became the first Peace Corps Volunteer to begin working overseas when he took up his post as an English teacher at Ghanata secondary school in Dodowa.”

Okay, let the ‘rewriting’ of early Peace Corps History continue….”Who was on First Base….?”

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  • Pat Kennedy checks in with more information on Ghana I and Tanganyika I. Pat writes, “When the Ghana I Volunteers met with President Kennedy at the White House the Tanganyika Volunteers I were also part of the group. The Ghana I Volunteers then left for Africa. However, the Tanganyika group were still Trainees and they went to the training camp in Puerto Rico. After finishing that Outward Bound program, they left for Africa and went through several more weeks of in-country Training before they finally went to their assignments. Meanwhile Tom Livingston in Ghana had already been teaching for several weeks at Ghanata College.

  • More from Pat Kennedy: “According to the Peace Corps’ Ist Annual Report to Congress : After their Training program at Texas Western in El Paso ( I was their Training Officer( they headed to Washington for the Rose Garden meeting with President Kennedy, Then they flew to Puerto Rico for a months additional training in Arecibo at the Peace Corps ‘Field Training Center When they completed that they flew to Africa and spent the next seven weeks in Tengeru for in country training. Gene Schreiber writes in the Report, ” Then after nearly five months of training we were handed our assignments and dispersed into the field”.’
    (See the Annual Report pp.47-48.)

  • Who’s on first! In any case, if Pat was really Padrick Kennedy, he was also the first director of VISTA. I met him at the 35th anniversary for VISTA and felt priviledged to talk to one of the Mad Men. I did meet Bill Moyers in Addis at the PC reception for Bill Dowell, one of my roommates, who got married incountry. Years later, I sat at Moyer’s desk at home in Hempsted to use his phone to tell the Pres. of the proverty program, for which I was resigning as ED, to return to Federal service. Sally Moyer was the VP for the organization and is likely the reason that I got the job because Bill was one of the Baylor “Mafie” at the Peace Corps and another member of that group, Weston Ware gave me a recommendation.

  • In the Wiki world in whch we live, no one ever gets the last word.

    NEVERTHELESS, hidden in the text of my book, Being First, is the exact date of our arrival in Accra, the number in the group, and the name of the song we sang (Hint: It was NOT the Ghanaian national anthem.).

  • More ‘first’ history:

    I was the first right-handed 32 year old former New York City junior high school teacher of Jewish background with a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago to teach as a Peace Corps Volunteer in an African secondary school north of the Equator.

  • Post Number of Volunteers Beginning of Duty
    1 Ghana 51 08/30/61
    2 Colombia 103 09/08/61
    3 St. Lucia 15 09/08/61
    4 Nigeria 39 09/26/61
    5 Tanganyika 35 09/30/61
    6 Philippines* 272 10/12/61
    7 Chile 45 10/12/61
    8 Pakistan – East 29 11/01/61
    Pakistan – West 28 12/10/61
    9 India 26 12/22/61
    10 Sierra Leone 32 01/03/62
    11 Malaya* 67 01/15/62
    12 Thailand 45 01/25/62
    13 Brazil 43 03/24/62
    14 El Salvador 25 05/04/62
    15 Venezuela 23 06/05/62
    16 Jamaica 38 06/12/62
    17 Bolivia 46 06/30/62

    * Staggered arrival of Volunteers occurred at these posts

  • I have enjoyed so much meeting Volunteers from all the decades during the past weeks’ celebration. Reading Mark Fullmer is just a delight.

    I, for one, think the future of Peace Corps is secure in the hands of those currently serving. So, I don’t worry about about who might be the last Volunteer!

    As for the ongoing about who was the first, it puts me right back in the early 60s. Being first was so very important. Russian had beaten the US into space with sputnik and everyone was determined to be that the US would be the first on the moon. I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, “The Americanization of Emily.” The plot concerned the decision of some higher up in the US Army that the first dead man on Omaha Beach had to be an American. It was much funnier when we were not at war.

  • I was suprised to find in the first chapter of this book a photograph of me in Nepal where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years (1964-66) in Nepal III. The author (Coates Redmon) quoted me on the page facing my photograph. There are two errors in the quotation. Had the author furnished me with the quotation she had written before publication of the book, I would have corrected the text.
    Bill Robinson

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