Oscar L. Draughn
Specialist (E-4)
U. S. Army
Local Community
Dates of Service: 07/12/1965 - 06/04/1967
Communications Center Specialist , 56th Signal Co, 304th Signal BN

Oscar was born in Shreveport at Charity Hospital, one of nine children of his mother, Nancy Draughn. Some were already adults when Oscar was still a child. "She did day work and she may work at two houses a day. But she kept food on the table and I think the world of her," he says. The family lived at 2421 Holly Street. They had no car until he was a junior in high school. To supplement the family income, Oscar cut grass ,and ran a paper route, sometimes on a bike, but other times walking. In high school he played football at Booker T. Washington High School and then at Notre Dame High School, a school for African-American students built by a white man, Paul O'Brien. "I was fortunate enough to go there. There was a certain fee that you had to pay but they needed some football players," recalls Oscar, who played there for two years. The school uniform was a white shirt and dark pants. "I'm really glad I went there because it helped me to form what my mom was really pushing into me about getting an education." It would have been difficult at other black high schools at the time because the "gangs were real rough. Every area, every section of towns had gangs. Fortunately I thank God that I never became involved in any of them," he says. Joining gangs were voluntary, he says, "but in a way if it wasn't voluntary you better be able to defend for yourself, because there was times when they would try to force you into the gang. But then you have to have a strong parent because my mom, she wouldn't allow that. And I'm glad she didn't," he says. "It only taught hatred and dislike for your fellow brothers. That's all it was. It was nothing that benefited from no one--nothing," he emphasizes. He remembers fondly a neighborhood man, Fisher Pinkston, who became a surrogate father to Oscar and other neighborhood children. He played ball with them, took them fishing, hunting, and walking. Oscar graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1964. He went to Fort Wayne, Indiana, hoping to go to school. He was hired at International Harvester, but two weeks later was drafted on June 12, 1965. He was sent to Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana, where he trained with the M1 rifle. Basic training gave him another growing stage in his life. "It taught you to depend on yourself and to get up and go out and do what you had to do, so that's why I saw the draft to me, I think it should never have stopped," he says. There, too, in basic he met Edwin Veth of Chicago, a white man who remains his best friend today. From basic he was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia to signal school, and then to Korea, with a top classification for clearance in army information: Need to Know. His unit was 56th Signal Company. One message he had to send was when soldiers became infected with gonorrhea, stating that the Korean strain was "incurable". Bodies were shipped home with information to survivors that the soldier was killed in action. "They couldn't cure them," he says of the military doctors. In 1966 his unit was transferred from Pusan down to Teague. By serving 18 months in Korea, he extended his foreign service and was able to leave the army when he returned home. He was discharged on June 4, 1967. He married about a year after he completed service and would have two children. Oscar returned to International Harvester in Fort Wayne, where he entered a four-year apprenticeship and trained as a machine repairman. Oscar spent 18 years at International Harvester. He next worked at a Chevrolet plant as a machine repairman and for Dana Corporation, and finally for the State Hospital in food service. By then a single father, he was taking care of his teenage daughter in her senior year in school. Through a former co-worker at International Harvester, he got a job at a soft drink plant in the tool room, then worked for Dana Corporation in Auburn, Indiana until he retired. It was "the grace of God" that he returned to Shreveport in 2006 in time to help in the care of an ill sister. He attends Saint Peter Baptist Church, and works out six days a week in the gym. "I don't take any medicine," he states.