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The late Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley made history in 1945 as an officer for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, also known as the Women’s Army’s Corps (WAC). Earley became the highest-ranked Black woman officer during World War II and today is her birthday.

Charity Edna Adams was born December 5, 1918 in Kittrell, N.C., but was primarily raised in Columbia, S.C. by her minister father and schoolteacher mother. Education was key in the Adams household, and she graduated valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High School before going to Wilberforce University in Ohio, graduating at the age of 20 in 1938.

Adams returned to Columbia to teach math and continued to study for her master’s in psychology from Ohio State University but caught wind of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps creation in 1942. The U.S. Army was still segregated, but the Corps afforded Adams a new opportunity.

She was accepted into the training program at Fort Des Moines, and was commissioned as an officer in August 1942. She was then promoted to lead the first group of Black WAC members to travel overseas in 1944 to support mail and other administrative services.

Due to her stellar work with the Corps, Adams was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, achieving her historical mark. She requested to be released from active duty in 1946, and went on to complete her master’s degree while also becoming a notable speaker and sharing her experiences. Adams married Stanley Earley in 1949, and the couple raised a son and daughter together.

Charity Adams Earley passed in 2002 at the age of 83.

 

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