Maj. Gen. Spragins, who introduced black beret, dies at age 90

01/30/2014 11:14 PM

01/30/2014 11:18 PM

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Echols "Pete" Spragins, who introduced the black beret to the uniform of the Airborne Rangers, died Wednesday at his Lady's Island residence.

Spragins, who worked as a financial adviser after leaving the military and settling in Beaufort, was 90.

Spragins' military career spanned 32 years, two wars and assignments to the Pentagon. During that time, he raised five children across several continents.

Through four generations, members of Spragins' family attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, each ultimately achieving the rank of general, he told The Beaufort Gazette for a 2009 story.

His great-grandfather, Maj. Gen. Stewart Van Vliet, served on Ulysses S. Grant's staff as quartermaster of the Union Army during the Civil War. His father, Maj. Gen. R.L. Spragins, served at Guadalcanal and with the "Iron Men of Metz," ultimately pushing through the Vosges with the 44th during the bitterly cold winter of 1944 to liberate Strasbourg during World War II.

Spragins volunteered for the Korean War and joined the Rangers at Fort Benning, Ga., as commander of the 10th Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne). In commemoration of the grueling training, mostly in the dark of night, he introduced the Rangers' signature black beret.

The beret was wildly popular with his troops and was worn unofficially through the Vietnam War. It was officially designated as part of the newly created battalions of U.S. Army Rangers in 1975, according to several online sources.

Spragins was the husband of Francena Spragins.

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Parish Church of St. Helena, with burial at noon in Beaufort National Cemetery, with Army honors.

Donations may be made to Wounded Warriors Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675.

Arrangements by Copeland Funeral Service.

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