Return of the French Dukes
Several members of the revived drill team were once members of the Dukes' youth corps, which was divided up into the "Angels" for younger youth members, a teen group called the "Continentals," and the "Dukettes," the girl's group.
Under the steady leadership of Commander Carlton "Butch" Bell, who led the Dukes in winning competitions across the country during its heyday in the 60s and 70s, they are again being whipped into shape at daily practices. Watching as they practice drill routines, it's apparent that the old swagger that ranked the French Dukes among the best drill teams in the country is little diminished. The original group won competitions in Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. After serving as the civilian color guard for Richard Nixon during a campaign stop in Lansing, Michigan during the 1968 presidential campaign, the group was the first black, non-military precision drill team to perform at a presidential inauguration. Still a great source of pride for the city's black community, the group still stands out because of its discipline and hard work as an example of excellence--a legacy the revived group hopes to pass on to the next generation.
[Originally published in July, 2012.]