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E. Beardsley

physician and professional leader, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, the orphaned son of unknown parents. As with many African Americans of the post–Civil War era, it was Reconstruction that gave McClennan a chance at a larger life. In 1872, at the height of Reconstruction in South Carolina (and thanks to the influence of a guardian uncle), he became a page in the black-dominated state senate. There he won the notice and friendship of the influential legislator Richard H. “Daddy” Cain. That fall Cain ran successfully for Congress, and in 1873, after McClennan passed a competitive examination, Cain appointed his young protégé to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

Only the second African American student to enter Annapolis McClennan who was light skinned enough to pass for white but never denied his race found that the navy had made no accommodation to the new racial ...