Freddie Stowers was born in 1896 in Sandy Springs, S.C. Before being drafted, he worked as a farmhand. He was married to Pearl, and they had a daughter named Minnie Lee. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1917 at age 21 and assigned to the all-Black Company C, 1st Battalion, 371st Infantry regiment. They were organized at Camp Jackson, S.C.
In March 1918, General Pershing assigned the 371st Infantry, along with other all-Black regiments, to support the beleaguered French forces during World War I. In a September battle, Stowers’ company was defending a French hill. Following an initial German surrender, half of Stowers’ company was eventually killed or wounded. Stowers took command of the depleted company, but he was soon mortally wounded by German machine gun fire. He was buried along with 133 of his comrades in France.
Shortly after Stowers was killed in action, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor. His application was seemingly misplaced, and the recommendation was never processed. Stowers’ heroic actions laid dormant until 1988, when the Army launched an investigation into why no African Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor in World War I. The investigation determined Stowers’ recommendation had fallen through the cracks. On April 24, 1991, President George H.W. Bush posthumously awarded Corporal Freddie Stowers the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Stowers’ two sisters accepted the award on the family’s behalf.
The outcome of the Stowers review led to a new Army study in 1992, which found that several African American and other minority Distinguished Cross recipients from World Wars I and II were actually deserving of Medals of Honor that were not awarded because of bias on the part of the Decorations Board. Today, Stowers’ name lives on in buildings named in his honor -Stowers Elementary School at Fort Benning, GA, and the Corporal Freddie Stowers Single Soldier Billeting Complex on Fort Jackson, S.C.