Politics · February 1, 2021

Kentucky Governor: Col. Charles Young’s Promotion to Major General

FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) With Kentuckians commemorating Black History Month, Gov. Andy Beshear sent a letter to President Joseph Biden encouraging him to posthumously promote Col. Charles Young to the honorary rank of Major General in the U.S. Army.

“As we strive to end the racial injustices that persist to this day, we must recognize the contribution that those like Charles Young made to the successes and freedoms that we enjoy as Americans,” wrote Gov. Beshear in his letter.  “I believe him to be more than deserving of this rank and support his promotion posthumously to Major General.”

Charles Young was born in Mays Lick, Kentucky, to enslaved parents in 1864.  He valued education throughout his life and graduated with honors from high school in Ohio, where his parents escaped slavery.

Young taught elementary school and eventually entered the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he was its third Black graduate.  He went on to become the first Black military attaché to a foreign country and served in various assignments from Haiti and Liberia, to Mexico and Nigeria.  When he was medically discharged from active duty, Young was the highest-ranking Black officer in the military, having been promoted to Colonel.

“I truly believe his service to our great country to be invaluable and but for the racism of the time, Buffalo Soldier Colonel Young would have been properly promoted to the rank of General and would have been the first Black American to do so,” the Governor wrote.

Following his death, Young was given full military honors and burial in Arlington National Cemetery, a reminder to Americans of his legacy as a leader, his perseverance despite obstacles and his heroic example to others.

Last year, in his capacity as commander in chief of the Kentucky National Guard, Gov. Beshear posthumously promoted Col. Young to the honorary rank of Brigadier General in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  While Young’s promotion to Brigadier General is recognized only in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a promotion by the president would be a national recognition of some of the earliest contributions of black officers in the United States Army.