November 2001

Brig. Gen. Velma L. Richardson

Female Brigadier General in the United States Army

Only five African American women have earned the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army. One of them is Bennettsville, South Carolina native, Velma L. Richardson. She was awarded that rank in January, 2000. In July 1998, she became the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, Fort Gordon, Georgia. As Brigadier General, she became the Deputy Commanding General/Assistant Commandant, and is the first woman to hold either position at Fort Gordon. Velma Richardson was born on January 8, 1951. By the time she was ten years old, both of her parents had died. Therefore, Velma and her brother, Joseph, were raised by her grandmother, the Rev. V. O. Jefferies, then pastor of Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Bennettsville. She credits her grandmother with instilling positive values and the belief that “nothing was unattainable for me.” Richardson once considered following her grandmother’s theology path, but she never felt the “call.” She attended school in Bennettsville before earning her Bachelor of Science degree from Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina (1973). She received a commission as a Second Lieutenant and entered the Army in 1973, serving in the Women’s Army Corps. She had been inspired by her aunt, Vashti Jefferies, who entered the army in 1951 and retired 28 years later as a colonel. Brigadier General Velma Richardson began her active duty with the Women’s Army Corps at Fort McClellan, Alabama, in 1973. She had planned to remain in the Army for two years, but soon discovered it to be her “calling.” Richardson believes in excellence, professionalism and academic accomplishments. After her initial orientation, she attended the Air Defense Officer Basic Course and the Communications-Electronics Staff Officer Course. Later assignments included: a stint in Korea, where she served as Platoon Leader and Company commander in the 51st Signal Battalion; attendance at the Signal Officer Advanced Course; Executive Officer, 426th Signal Battalion; Personnel management Officer, GI XVIII Airborne Corps; and also Battalion Commander, 51st Signal Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Brigadier General Richardson earned a Master of Arts degree from Pepperdine University in Human Resources Management. She spent 1993 – 1994 attending the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Prior to assuming her position at Fort Gordon, she worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence. In June 1996, she assumed command of the 1108th U.S. Army Signal Brigade at Fort Richie, Maryland. This outstanding military officer has numerous awards and honors including: the Legion of Merit; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters; the Army Commendation Medal; the Army Achievement Medal; the National Defense Service Medal (2nd award); and the Department of Defense Identification Badge.