Born in December 1918 in Kittrell, North Carolina, Charity A. Earley was the oldest of four children. Raised in Columbia, South Carolina, by her father who was a minister and her mother, a former teacher, she excelled in school and became valedictorian at Booker T. Washington High School. After completing high school, she attended Wilberforce University of Ohio, where she studied Latin, math and physics. Upon graduating, she taught math at a local high school while working on a master’s degree in psychology at Ohio State University.
In July 1942, Earley was accepted into the U.S. Army’s Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), where she became the first African American woman to be an officer in the WAAC. Attending the first African American Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, she graduated first in her class and commissioned as second lieutenant in August 1942. The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in July 1943. In 1943, she was promoted to major, making her the highest-ranking female officer at the training center. During her service, Earley served as the training center control officer, a staff training officer and a company commander.
In 1944, Earley became the commanding officer of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, also known as the “Six Triple Eight.” The battalion was the only African American WAC unit to serve overseas during World War II. Stationed in Birmingham, England, the battalion organized and distributed undelivered mail to U.S. soldiers, working systematically in shifts to clear the backlog. In June 1945, the battalion was moved to the postal facilities in France, to work another backlog of undelivered mail. The battalion saw responsibility for distributing mail to millions of soldiers during World War II and, by the end of the war, they delivered over 17 million pieces of backlogged mail.
In December 1945, Earley was promoted to lieutenant colonel, which was the highest rank for a soldier in the WAC. Shortly after the war, she worked briefly at the Pentagon before requesting discharge in 1946.
Following her service, Earley went back to Ohio State University to complete her degree and worked at the then-named Veterans Administration in Ohio. After marrying and moving to Switzerland in 1949, she returned to the U.S. in 1952, dedicating her life to activism and education. She established the Black Leadership Development Program, which focuses on leadership training to African Americans in their communities. Earley died in 2002 in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 83.
We honor her service.
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This post, #VeteranOfTheDay Army Veteran Charity Earley, was originally published by the Veteran's Administration.
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