Here’s a side of me many people don’t know.
My husband, Dr. Karl Anthony Huff, rides a motorcycle and is a member of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club. As a rider, I’m in the Buffalo Soldiers MC Social Club.
Here we are Friday, March 27 at the kickoff of Arizona Bike Week at Chester’s Harley Davidson shop in Mesa. Charlie Daniels Band was the headline act. About 15 other Buffalo Soldiers MC club members were present as well staffing our booth to raise awareness and funds for Isaiah Mays.
In 2001, Isaiah Mays was finally awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Until recently, however his remains were buried near a hospital’s historic grave site, “All Souls Cemetery” but alone, close to a trash dumpster locked behind a chain link fence.
Mays and Sergeant Benjamin Brown, of the 24th Infantry, were awarded the Medal of Honor in 1890 for “gallantry and meritorious conduct” while defending an Army pay wagon against masked bandits near Tucson.
In a fierce battle with the robbers, several soldiers were seriously wounded. Mays, shot in both legs, walked and crawled two miles to a nearby ranch to sound the alarm.
(Mays’ and Brown’s regiment was one of several famous Black “Buffalo Soldier” regiments formed after the Civil War and sent West during the Indian Wars.)
The robbers got away with $29,000 in gold (worth nearly half a million dollars today) that was never recovered.
Mays’ and Brown’s gallantry caught the attention of his superiors, who said the men “behaved in the most courageous and heroic manner.”
Born a slave in Virginia in 1858, Mays left the Army in 1893 and worked as a laborer in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1922, he appealed for and was denied a federal pension.
Mays was eventually committed to the hospital, which at the time housed not only the mentally ill but also tubercular patients and indigents with nowhere else to go. Mays died at the hospital 1925. Because of a fire in 1935, the hospital had no record of his actual burial site.
For decades after his death, Mays’ grave was marked only by a modest bricklike marker etched with a number. Mays might have been forgotten had it not been for the efforts of hospital staff and a small group of Arizona veterans who identified Mays as one of the state’s recipients of the nation’s highest military honor.
In 2001, Mays finally received a Medal of Honor headstone from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for his bravery 110 years earlier.
The headstone was unveiled just a few days before Memorial Day in 2001 at a formal ceremony with members of the American Buffalo Soldiers in attendance.
The Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club took on the commitment to further honor this soldier by partnering with the Cop. Mays Memorial Fund to build a memorial at the State Capital and to get the burieal place changed to Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.
For more information, visit the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club’s website.