OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — The father you know as a child and the man you come to know much later, that’s what Lateka Alexander has wrestled with for the past three years.
Over that time she’s pored over old newspaper clippings, family photographs, and the stories she never heard from him.
“Why didn’t he talk to me about this,” she asks herself. “Me and my dad were really close. Why didn’t he tell me this stuff? Why didn’t he talk about this stuff to me?”
Mildridge ‘Andy’ Anderson was born on a cotton patch farm near Earlsboro, OK in 1927.
His father Forest Anderson was the offspring of a slave mother and a white father.
It was Forest who found oil on his land and became rich for a time, later losing his fortune during The Depression.
“He came here and made something out of nothing,” Alexander states, “and, if you look at it, that’s what my dad did. My father did not reap the benefits of those millions.”
Andy graduated high school at the age of 16, joined the Army in 1946, then went on to graduate from Langston University in three years.
He got a masters degree at the University of Denver.
Lateka’s father had a genius for electronics which served him well when he got a job at Tinker Air Force Base in the 1950’s.
“I already knew that he was smart and intelligent like that,” she says. “But to this degree, I wasn’t really aware of how much of a gem he was.”
“He liked to tinker with cars and various electronics,” says Andy’s eldest son John Anderson while speaking at a meeting room at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
On what would have been his 95th birthday, the Anderson family gathered to recognize Andy more than six years after his passing, for what Lateka discovered through her research.
In 1963 he solved a big problem with a missile guidance system on the B-52 platform.
He got some recognition in the papers at the time and did receive a bonus for his accomplishment.
“Recieving $125.00,” reads a proclamation read by State Senator George Young.
But someone else got the patent rights and Andy never spoke of it again.
“I understood daddy was upset,” explains Lateka. “He was angry about it and he was the type of person who would get upset, then not dwell on it. He would move on. Close that door.”
On a weekend where fathers are celebrated and African American families, especially, celebrate long awaited news of their freedom, the lessons our parents teach us, we all appreciate the values, the stories we hear, and even the ones we learn about later.
Lateka explains, “As I keep trying to understand, I feel like I’m getting somewhere in understanding. My strength and resilience came from him.”
The ‘magnificent’ Andersons have a long history of picking up and moving on through all kinds of struggles.
Lateka still wishes she had more than the recordings of Andy she still keeps on her phone.
A clearer picture of the past makes those struggles all the more heroic.
“I’m just so proud of my dad,” she says. “I’m proud to be his daughter.”
Andy’s birthday is Friday, June 17. Lateka’s is Saturday, June 18. Father’s Day 2022 is June 19.
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