Clarence Bullock (1897-1960)

by D’Angelo Darby

Clarence Bullock born to Carrie and Peter Bullock on June 30th, 1897 served in the military during World War I. He served out of Norfolk, Va enlisting in the Naval Reserve on June 5th, 1917. Before he enlisted, he worked as a bus boy after he left active duty he worked for the military as a civilian at a U.S. Army Base. A command he served under was the USS Legonia II. Prior to its commissioning for military use, the Legonia was a yacht built in Delaware. The U.S. Navy purchased it in 1917 and utilized it as a messenger, escort, and guard ship. Records show that he also spent time aboard the USS Fish Hawk a Fish Commission boat. Its Chief Boatswain volunteered her for patrol and inspection duty in an informal agreement. Although the U.S. Navy officially took her on loan and reassigned her to New London, Connecticut.

Bullock served as a Mess Attendant 3rd class within the U.S Navy. Blacks were only allowed to serve in menial roles in the Navy. They were not allowed to serve at all in the Marines. However, in the Army they could serve in any capacity that was not in aviation. So it is not surprising that as a sailor he would have been a Mess Attendant. After the war, he returned home to Norfolk, Va.

Clarence Bullock had a son who became a prominent black artist.  His son enrolled in what is now known as North Carolina A&T. After graduating, he moved to Philadephia, PA and worked as a substitute teacher. While working he attended night courses and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s degree in oil painting. He was commissioned to create a portrait of John F. Kennedy.

Unfortunately, Clarence Senior had a stroke causing temporary paralysis in the right side of his body due to a brain abscess. He died August 9th, 1960 due to complications associated with hypertension. He was be survived by his wife Susie Bullock and son Clarence C. Bullock of Norfolk, Va.


“Meeting with Mr. Kennedy: That’s Artist’s Goal: To Present President’s Portrait Clarence Bullock Overcame Obstacles to Score in Art.” New Journal and Guide (1916-), Dec 15, 1962, pp. 1. ProQuest

“African-American Participation during World War I.” Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs – State of Delaware, 13 Apr. 2021, 

Civilian Ships–Legonia II (Steam Yacht, 1909),

Fish Hawk,