California's oldest delegate gives command performance in Charlotte
September 6th, 2012
01:43 PM ET
9 months ago

California's oldest delegate gives command performance in Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) - He's not the oldest person attending the Democratic National Convention, but Stephen E. Sherman may be the most resourceful.

Although the California delegate survived the Great Depression, World War II, and segregation over the course of his 91 years, there was one little thing that almost prevented him from witnessing the renomination of the nation's first black president: the billfold containing his ID and convention credentials that he left sitting at home shortly before his cross-country flight.

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But that's when "The Commander" took over. That's what he likes to be called: "Commander Sherman."

Using a combination of charm and the bright array of military decorations adorning his green Army jacket, the Commander talked, laughed, and cajoled his way through the TSA checkpoint all the way to Charlotte and into a new set of tightly controlled convention credentials. Unbeknowst to millions of American air travelers who obediently remove their shoes and their metals and provide proof of identification upon demand, being Commander Sherman has its privileges.

"I came all the way here with no ID. I got here on my ingenuity," he said. "I'm really blessed, man. They just trust me. I told them I'm a 91-year-old World War II vet. I was honest."

Once in Charlotte, Sherman faced a confusing maze of ever-shifting security barriers and closed streets. In the days before the convention began, he said he was able to convince taxi drivers to drive in restricted areas with only the assurance that if they were stopped, the Commander "will talk to them." But he had his work cut out for him when security measures tightened considerably once the convention began.

At his hotel located several blocks from the convention hall, the Commander was running late for a 3 p.m. interview with HLN's Kyra Phillips. Unable to find a cab, he set out on foot for the Time Warner Cable Arena.

After the first block, Sherman saw an opportunity and seized it.

"Hey!" he shouted at a passing ambulance. "I'm a 91-year-old World War II veteran. I need a ride."

After a brief examination, during which he proclaimed, "I'm fine, I just need a ride," Sherman boarded the ambulance and got a lift to the next security barrier. There, he was greeted by one, then two, then a small group of local police officers who took turns shaking his hand and thanking him for his military service.

"Thank you for saving us from speaking German or Japanese," said one officer.

From there, Sherman shuffled through the Trade Street transit center when he saw his next opportunity.

"Hey!" he shouted at a woman in a golf cart. "I need a ride!"

The Commander made it to the interview on time and repayed those who helped him along the way with hugs. The ambulance driver. The woman in the golf cart. The volunteer who pushed his TWCA courtesy wheelchair. The CNN runner who escorted him to the interview. And Kyra Phillips herself.

"I've never met a stranger in my life," he said.

"I'm a happy man. Most people my age walk around like this," he said while making a motion that vaguely resembled a zombie being electrocuted. "Not me."

Sherman says he hopes to use his position as a delegate to bring attention to his two missions in life: eradicating homelessness among veterans and securing both a memorial and a posthumous Medal of Honor for Doris Miller, the African-American Navy cook who manned an anti-aircraft machine gun during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"That's my goal in life," said Sherman, who knew Miller personally and refers to him as "my hero."

Charlotte marks the Commander's second convention. He attended the Denver convention in 2008 "with $4 in my pocket," and he hopes to attend his third in 2016.

"God willing, I'll be right back here."

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. cali girl

    Thank you Mr Sherman, you are hero in many ways to all Americans.

    September 6, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Ha!

    RNC "senior moment" – Crotchety old white man condescends and talks down to imaginary "uppity negr-" sitting in empty chair next to him.

    DNC "senior moment" – Oldest delegate forgets his stuff at home.

    Any questions?

    September 6, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    You go, pal.

    September 6, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. demwit

    How can he use the phrase "God willing" after booing the inclusion of God in the DNC platform? Does he even know where he is!?

    September 6, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Jon

    Nice story ... but isn't anyone else concerned? Here is a man who boarded an airplane without ID, has gotten around the security at the DNC, and he does this with charm. People should be fired. If this kindly old man can get around the security that is in place to protect us all, someone is not doing their job. What if he wasn't just a kindly old man ... and a charming terrorist instead. If these security people are not dealt with, the next time will it be a cute girl ... or handsom guy? Security is there for a reason ... one thing for sure, no one should get through because, They forgot their ID at home. I don't like this President, but I do not want any harm to come to him because a security guard allowed someone through because they forgot their ID at home.

    September 6, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. v

    we need to hear more from people of this time – all people who can best tell you like it really was and is today! Go Commander Sherman!

    September 6, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. RSaundersPA

    You just have to love "The Greatest Generation".

    September 6, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  8. Woman In California

    What a nice story and ANYONE who tries to make something out of this is sick.

    September 6, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. Joi Gibson

    Bless your heart Commander!!!

    OBAMA/BIDEN/FIRST LADY MICHELLE 2012!!!

    September 6, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  10. RealityBites

    So its not that he couldn't get an ID ao much as its that he doesn't want to use an ID.
    From a retired commander who swore to serve and protect the constitution of the US.
    How ironic..

    September 6, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There are many "Commander Shermans", we just need them to speak up against voter I.D. laws and voter suppression. We are the United States of America and we will move FORWARD.

    September 6, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Sherman says he hopes to use his position as a delegate to bring attention to his two missions in life: eradicating homelessness among veterans and securing both a memorial and a posthumous Medal of Honor for Doris Miller, the African-American Navy cook who manned an anti-aircraft machine gun during the attack on Pearl Harbor."

    There were many veterans speaking at last nights convention. Unfortunately, CNN and FOX News chose not to air their speeches. I thought that was a bit over the top, especially considering we still have troops fighting in Afghanistan.

    "God willing, I'll be right back here." Amen, Stephen E. Sherman. Amen.

    September 6, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    91 years old and nothing stopped him from getting to his destination.
    There is a lesson in here for all of us.
    I agree with you Woman in California.
    Thank you for this very nice story re-affirming among other things the kindness of strangers, the patriotism inherent in most Americans, and the power of grit, determination and American ingenuity!!
    God bless you Commander Sherman!!!

    September 6, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. myviewis

    Sweet story but......."I came all the way here with no ID. I got here on my ingenuity. "But he had his work cut out for him when security measures tightened considerably once the convention began." he got around security and the safety of the president and v.p.???? And is this a sign of what's to come Voting time????????

    September 6, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. The REAL Truth...

    @Jon – Nice story ... but isn't anyone else concerned? Here is a man who boarded an airplane without ID, has gotten around the security at the DNC, and he does this with charm. People should be fired.
    -------------------------------
    Maybe.. the difference is that at the RNC he probably would have been shot!

    September 6, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "Sweet story but......."I came all the way here with no ID. I got here on my ingenuity. "But he had his work cut out for him when security measures tightened considerably once the convention began." he got around security and the safety of the president and v.p.???? And is this a sign of what's to come Voting time????????"

    The attempt to turn this into a Voter ID issue was more predictable than Ryan lying during his speech. Here's some free advice: Voter ID laws are getting nailed across the country for their disparate affect on minorities AND the dude in this story is black....you probably don't want to go there...or, since you already went there, you probably should think about not staying there.

    September 6, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. Jill

    I love this story! God bless you, and thank you Mr. Sherman for your service to our country. My dad was a Navy WWII veteran and if he were here, he would love this story too.

    September 6, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  18. Padraig

    Sounds like Plumber Bob story to me. He is being used and is accepting it and that is fine but a hero? How?

    September 6, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "but a hero? How?"

    If a Dem politician ever asked that question about a man who served our country during wartime, the GOP/Teatrolls would reach behind themselves, take a dump in their fists and throw it at him. Grow up. This man exemplifies everything the country is supposed to stand for, and it has absolutely nothing to do with his politics.

    September 6, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    myviewis wrote:

    Sweet story but......."I came all the way here with no ID. I got here on my ingenuity. "But he had his work cut out for him when security measures tightened considerably once the convention began." he got around security and the safety of the president and v.p.???? And is this a sign of what's to come Voting time????????
    ---------------------
    Say that to his face. I dare you.

    September 6, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  21. myviewis

    Sniffit
    The attempt to turn this into a Voter ID issue was more predictable than Ryan lying during his speech
    ------------------------–

    And the mentioning of this man leaving behind his ID in this article and how he was able to board a plane without his ID and was allowed to enter the convention without his ID is not an attempt to say we don't need IDs???? Yeah right.

    September 6, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. PJ

    @demwit:
    ****
    You chose the perfect name for yourself, only you misspelled it. How do you know if this gentle man booed?
    You don't.
    And another thing you don't know is that undoubtedly God was at his side the whole time, just as He was in
    the hearts of those who helped him.

    September 6, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. myviewis

    Rudy NYC

    myviewis wrote:

    Sweet story but......."I came all the way here with no ID. I got here on my ingenuity. "But he had his work cut out for him when security measures tightened considerably once the convention began." he got around security and the safety of the president and v.p.???? And is this a sign of what's to come Voting time????????
    -------
    Say that to his face. I dare you.
    ----------------------

    I would and this is most likely what he would say to me ""I came all the way here with no ID. I got here on my ingenuity,"

    September 6, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "And the mentioning of this man leaving behind his ID in this article and how he was able to board a plane without his ID and was allowed to enter the convention without his ID is not an attempt to say we don't need IDs???? Yeah right."

    Wow. Stop raiding mommy's medicine cabinet. I repeat: grow up.

    September 6, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |