City’s first black postal worker: Attitude pulled him through

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2001

&uot;Do you know why the flag is raised a half-mast?&uot; To prove that he did, Armand Pinkney tossed a copy of the latest U.S. Postal Service magazine at his guests and pointed to the cover. William Carney, the first black letter carrier for the postal service, was honored at his death in 1869 by friends and dignitaries who lowered the U.S. flag to half mast.

Pinkney, 87, knows all about Carney, because he too is a man of firsts – the first black postal worker in Natchez. Like millions of others returning home from&160;World War II, Pinkney was in search of a job. To support his wife, Carrie, and their two young sons, he took a job at Alcorn State University where he soon became head chef.

But when U.S. Congress mandated that government agencies, including the postal service, begin hiring blacks, Pinkney jumped at the chance.

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Not only did he want a secure government job to pay the bills, Pinkney said he wanted to prove something to himself, to fellow blacks and to a society dominated by whites.

So in 1953, Pinkney applied for a position at the Natchez Post Office despite warnings from friends and family that &uot;they&uot; would never let him pass the difficult entrance examination.

Though he was accepted for a job, Pinkney said he faced outright rejection by his co-workers and supervisors. &uot;Nobody would even talk to me,&uot; he remembers.

Many times, he said he was given more work than he could do just so he would slip up and make a mistake.

Even his fellow blacks overlooked his perseverance, because they were convinced &uot;Washington&uot; had given him the job. But while fellow employees looked for ways to have him terminated, Pinkney said he worked all the harder to give them no excuse.

&uot;All these people were out to get me, and I intended to prove to people I could do it,&uot; he said.

Change was slow, but it did come and Pinkney said he eventually found his place in the postal service and coworkers began to accept him for his hard work and determination.

In the 27 years Pinkney worked for the Natchez Post Office, he received many awards, among them recognition for his &uot;superior accomplishment.&uot;

If there is anything about himself Pinkney said he would want others to model, it’s the same trait that pulled him through the tough early years at the post office: attitude. Pinkney said he fears young people today have lost the importance of having a good attitude. &uot;Today, everybody want to do their own thing,&uot; he said. &uot;Used to, we tried to do the right thing.&uot;

His influence must have rubbed off on someone, though. One son is a postal worker in Baton Rouge, La., and the other is a stockbroker with the NASDAQ exchange.