Cleophiss Jankins: The Real First Man on the Moon!

by Byron J. Barr I

UNSUNG AMERICAN HEROES:

CLEOPHISS JANKINS; THE FIRST MAN ON THE MOON!

Cleophiss Jankins was born in 1925, the son of a single sharecropper father. Cleophiss never knew his mother, and his father refused to speak her name; instead telling Cleophiss wild, fanciful, conflicting stories of his origins when he would get drunk on his bootleg sour-mash whiskey. Cleophiss heard stories ranging from "the stork brought you to me", to, "You was the result of a one-night-stand with Josephine Baker", to crazy stories of his not even having a mother, and thus being the miraculous product of immaculate conception, during a "lonely night of 'self-love'". Of course Cleophiss never believed any of his father's crazy, delusional stories, and as a result, searched relentlessly for his mother for much of his life, to no avail.

Cleophiss was a studious young man, and gained a great fascination for photography, aviation, and astronomy. He enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute at the young age of 15. He was one of the first men accepted into the Tuskegee Airman project, but was promptly ejected after being accused of intentionally crashing a plane during a test flight. This nearly broke Jankins, but it did not stop him. He continued to fuel his love for aviation as well as photography. This led him into seriously tackling one of the favored hobbies of his youth; bird-watching. This love resulted in him becoming one of the most prolific and respected photographic ornithologists of his time. Many of his photographs were sought after by museums around the country, but most were removed, returned, or destroyed when it was revealed that Jankins was indeed a black man.

Jankins pushed on through school, and graduated with honors with a double-major in astronomy aeronautics, and a minor in photography. He landed a few odd jobs after graduating, until he landed the job of his dreams...almost. He began to work for NASA, but could only get a job as a janitor, because of the deep discrimination at the time, in addition to his dishonorable discharge after the "Tuskegee Incident". It was there where he befriended a young man by the name of Neil Armstrong.

Jankins and Armstrong developed a strong, but private friendship. In public, It was said that Armstrong commonly referred to Jankins as just "Janitor"; and Jankins would respond to Armstrong as "astronaut", often accenting the first syllable; "ASStronaut".

Though their 'friendship', Armstrong learned not only of Jankins' deep love for space space travel, but also of Cleophiss' extensive knowledge of all things aeronautic, as well as the cosmos. Citing Jankins' passion and wealth of knowledge led Armstrong to promise Jaknins that he would get him into space, by any means possible.

When the launch of Apollo 11 was in the works, Armstrong found an opportunity to make his move on behalf of Jankins. When Neil Armstrong was tapped to become the 'first man on the moon', the problematic issue of video documentation came up.

Neil spoke up; "That nigger janitor Jankins likes cameras. And I hear he's pretty damn good too...for a Moon Cricket." The room erupted in riotous laughter, one of the loudest of whom was Armstrong himself. What Armstrong did not know, was that Jankins was passing nearby, and heard the entire incident. when Jankins later confronted Armstrong, Armstrong stated that he was merely attempting to "speak their language" to get his point across.

Well, it worked. That little display of 'racism through humor' did get his point across; and Jankins earned himself a place on Apollo 11, which was promptly retrofitted with an additional (secret) fourth seat.

As a result, Cleophiss Jankins became the first human on the surface of the moon. Because somebody had to hold the camera for Neil when he emerged from the module, to the lunar surface, to be introduced to the world as "the first man on the moon".

Consequentially, because of the color of his skin, Cleophiss Jankins would never receive credit for even going to the moon. And today, "officially", there were only three seats on the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, 3 astronauts who went to the moon, and two white men who emerged to the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong, and one, "Buzz" Aldrin.

Jankins passed away of "natural causes" near Cape Canaveral Florida in 1992, at the age of 67. Some say that he died of a broken heart.

Cleophiss Jankins was posthumously made an honorary captain in the US Air Force, under the Clinton administration, a distinction never before given to an American civilian. But his presence as the first man on the moon continues to remain "officially classified" to this day.

This has been the Completely Fabricated Black History Month Profile of the day.

Rest in peace, Capt. Cleophiss Jankins; rest in peace.

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