continued Meanwhile, Jones has to figure out how to get to Bill Clinton. He says the president "wasn't there" when a group of congressmen sought - unsuccessfully - to reverse the mutiny convictions in 1994. But now that Clinton is calling for a "year of national dialogue" on race issues, Jones believes the initiative has legs again.
Whatever happens, Robert Allen sees the Port Chicago 50 as pioneers in the battle for integration."There was a public outcry when the black sailors were convicted," he writes. "For the first time, white sailors [were assigned] to ammunition handling. Liberals found conservatives agreeing integration was necessary - if only because segregation grouped black sailors together and made collective action possible."
For Jones, none of that matters as much as returning honor and compensation to the survivors, now in their 70s, who are becoming fewer by the year.
"I sure hope Mr. Jones gets to the president," says Robert Routh, 72, one survivor who was blinded in the blast and thus not involved in the alleged mutiny. "There were 2500 of us stationed there. All youngsters and volunteers. To come home [after the war] and not be able to brag about it or pick up benefits, that was hard for all of them."