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Tue, 12.17.1872

Walter Loving, Musician, and Bandleader born

Walter Howard Loving

*Walter Loving was born on this date in 1872. He was a Black soldier and musician most noted for his leadership of the Philippine Constabulary Band.

Born outside Lovingston, Virginia, in 1872, Walter Howard Loving was the son of a former slave. He spent his early childhood living with his parents and an extended family of fourteen relatives.  At age 10, Loving moved to Minnesota and into the home of Charles Eugene Flandrau, who employed Loving's sister Julia as a maid.  He and Julia later relocated with the Flandrau family to South Dakota.  Family legend claims Loving was tutored in mathematics by Theodore Roosevelt when the future U.S. president stayed at the Flandrau home in 1886.

He attended elementary school with Flandrau's son, Charles Macomb Flandrau.  He believed that Flandrau financed Loving's later education at the Preparatory High School for Negro Youth in Washington, DC, and, subsequently, the New England Conservatory of Music.  His early adulthood involved several stints in the U.S. Army as a musician and later regimental bandleader. While studying at the New England Conservatory of Music, Loving decided to rejoin the Army and was given command of the 45th United States Volunteer Infantry Regiment band.

In 1902 Loving was tapped to organize the Philippine Constabulary Band on the recommendation of Governor-General of the Philippines William Howard Taft, who had earlier heard Loving's 45th regimental band perform. Loving, who had learned both Spanish and Tagalog during his brief time in the Philippines, developed an instant rapport with his bandsmen and established a reputation for excellence in the Philippines and the United States. During a 1915 San Francisco, California performance, John Philip Sousa was a guest to conduct the group.

The Philippine Constabulary Band was the lead unit in the United States presidential inaugural parade of 1909, which saw William Howard Taft inaugurated as president of the United States. It was the first time a band other than the United States Marine Band served as the musical escort to the President of the United States. The day after the inauguration, the band was invited to perform for the president and Mrs. Taft at the White House, becoming the first band in history from outside the continental United States to perform at a White House reception and the first time an African American conducted a musical performance at the White House. Loving continued as the band's director until being forced to take a medical leave in 1915 due to tuberculosis.

Loving married his wife, Edith, in 1916 and had one son, Walter Loving, Jr. During World War I Loving served stateside in the U.S. Army as an officer in the Military Intelligence Division. Holding the rank of major throughout the war, Loving was initially charged with investigating subversive activities by Black leaders, attending meetings and rallies in plainclothes, and developing a network of informants. In one of his reports, he would assert that Black socialists were "the most radical of all radicals" as well as alleged "vicious and well-financed propaganda" campaigns run in black newspapers as being the impetus for the Chicago race riot of 1919. David Levering Lewis has called Loving "one of the Army's most effective wartime undercover Negro agents."

Later, Loving would be tasked with touring the United States to inspect the conditions of race relations at U.S. Army camps. His final report observed that Black soldiers were best treated and most effectively integrated into military units when white officers from the western United States and the northeastern United States held command, and he recommended to the Army that white officers from the southern United States not be permitted to lead units with Black soldiers.

Loving also attacked the Army's racial policies pertaining to non-commissioned officers, noting that, "The assignment of white non-commissioned officers to colored units is a new departure in the history of the American army. Even in Civil War days colored units carried colored non-commissioned officers ... that most of these white non-commissioned officers view themselves in the light of the overseer of antebellum days is shown by their practice of carrying revolvers when they take details of men out to work." Following the end of his Army undercover Negro agent work, Loving returned to the Philippines and resumed command of the Philippine Constabulary Band for three years before retiring a second time, moving with his wife, Edith, to Oakland, California.

In Oakland, Loving found success in real estate speculation.  Because attitudes in Oakland at the time made African American ownership of property in some portions of the city problematic, Loving would dress in a chauffeur's uniform and drive Edith, who had a light complexion and could be mistaken for white, to view the property.  From 1937 through 1940, Loving again took command of the Philippine Constabulary Band and renamed the Philippine Army Orchestra. Returning to the Philippines, he was commissioned at the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Philippine Commonwealth Army and made "Special Advisor to the President of the Philippines." He retired in 1940 but continued to live in Manila. Loving and Gen. MacArthur had a warm relationship. He and his wife were detained in 1941 by Japanese forces following the surrender of Manila. During his captivity, Loving composed a resistance song, Beloved Philippines. He was released due to his declining health and advancing age in 1943.

In 1945, during the Battle of Manila, Loving was again arrested and detained, along with other Americans and Filipinos, at the Manila Hotel. The exact circumstances surrounding the death of Walter Loving are unclear.  In 1952, Loving was posthumously awarded the Presidential Merit Medal by the government of the Philippines during a ceremony at Luneta, during which his final composition, Beloved Philippines, was performed. He was also the recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Star, the second-highest military honor of the Philippines, and the United States Philippine Campaign Medal, the latter given for his service during the Philippine-American War.

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