May 1997

Lt. Col. Charity Edna Adams Earley

Army Lieutenant Colonel

Lt. Col. Charity Edna Adams Earley

Lt. Col. Charity Edna Adams Earley holds the unique distinction of having risen to the highest military rank attained by an African-American woman in the Second World War. She was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1918. Earley attended the public schools of Columbia-Howard School, Waverly School, and Booker T. Washington High School, from which she graduated without ever missing a day of class. From the time she was in the fifth grade, Earley knew that she wanted to major in mathematics. She enrolled at Wiberforce University, an African-American Episcopal school in Xenia, Ohio, where she earned her BA in mathematics in 1938. When she left the South to study in the Midwest, she as ways remembered the words of her father, a minister, who admonished, “We have tried to teach you right from wrong. Just do right.” Upon graduation, she returned to Columbia for four years to teach mathematics and science. Greater challenges beckoned Earley. She applied for and was eventually accepted into the first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps-WAAC, which had been established during World War II. At the time of her entry, she did not know that the United States was at war. By the end of the war more than 4,000 African-American women had enlisted. She did realize that African-Americans had always been loyal to their country and viewed military service as being intertwined with freedom and full citizenship. Ironically, the first casualty of the Revolutionary War was an African-American, Crispus Attucks, and the first soldier to die at Pearl Harbor was a black American, Robert Brooks. Earley served in the Women’s Army Corps from July 1942 to March 1946. She moved up the ranks and became a lieutenant colonel, the highest position held by an African-American woman in the US military during World War II. She commanded the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion through its moves form Birmingham, England, to Rouen and Paris, France. This was the only group of African-American women to serve overseas during World War II. Additionally, she was a company commander and a station control and training officer. After her army years, Earley earned her MA degree in vocational psychology form Ohio State University and studied further at the University of Zurich and at the Ungian Institute of Analytical Psychology in Zurich, Switzerland. She became a mathematics and science teacher, and Dean of Student Personnel Services at both Tennessee A & I University and George State University. Public service is an integral part of Earley’s life. She is a volunteer with the Urban League, the YWCA, the United Way of Dayton, Ohio, the United Negro College Fund, and the Black Leadership Development. She has received several recognition’s, including induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She has also received a Brotherhood Award from the Dayton Area Conference of Christians and Jews, “Black Women Against the Odds” tribute to the top 100 women in African-American history, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, and she established the Charity Edna Earley Scholarship at Wiberforce University. Her book, ONE WOMEN’S ARMY, published in 1989 and reissued in 1996, is a vivid story of her experiences and travels in the US army.