Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-9) introduced a bill to posthumously promote Colonel Charles Young, United States Army to the rank of brigadier general.
Colonel Young was born to former slaves in 1864. He enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1884 and graduated in 1889, becoming the third black cadet to graduate from the Academy. His service record following his graduation was exemplary - becoming the first black military attaché, the first black Superintendant of a National Park, and the first black soldier promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel. He also had combat commands during the Philippine Insurrection and General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition, during which his courageous actions under fire resulted in the rescue of the 13th Cavalry.
At the outset of the First World War, Colonel Young was the highest ranking African American in the United States Army. In June 1917, however, he was declared medically unfit due to a diagnosis of hypertension. After demonstrating his physical fitness, he was reinstated in November 1918, days before the war ended. After the war, Colonel Young was sent once again as a military attaché to Liberia. He died of an infection in 1922 while on a mission in Nigeria, having never attained flag rank.
“Over the course of his thirty-two year career, Colonel Young distinguished himself numerous times as an administrator, as a soldier, and as a combat officer,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Unfortunately, he lived during a time when segregation was the law of the land and opportunities were systemically denied to African Americans. Despite being a highly qualified officer, he was prevented from leading combat troops during the First World War, and his promotion opportunities may have been limited by his race.
“As the first African American to attain the rank of Colonel, Charles Young was a trailblazer. That is why it I so important that we honor his service by authorizing a posthumous promotion to the rank of brigadier general.”
Former Congressman Ron Dellums introduced a version of this bill several times during his tenure, most recently in the 100th Congress with the support of the full Congressional Black Caucus.
A graveside memorial for Colonel Young will take place on June 1, 2010 at 2:30 at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 3, Lot 1730.
Nicole Y. Williams
The Honorable Barbara Lee (CA-9)
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