FRANKFORT — As part of a Black History Month observance this week, Gov. Andy Beshear posthumously promoted Col. Charles Young, a Kentucky native, to the honorary rank of Brigadier General in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
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 moved to escape slavery.
He taught elementary school and entered the United States Military Academy in West Point in 1884. After graduating from West Point, Young served in various assignments ranging from Haiti and Liberia, to Mexico and Nigeria. When he was medically discharged from active duty, Young was the highest-ranking African-American officer in the military, having been promoted to Colonel.
“Brigadier General Young was a pioneer that showed groundbreaking dedication to his country and peers while becoming only the third African-American graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York,” said Beshear. “It is a great honor to recognize General Young for consistently displaying moral courage and selfless service, all while overcoming personal adversity with honor and integrity.”
Charles Blatcher III, founder and chairman of the National Coalition of Black Veterans Organizations, whose mission it is to raise public awareness of the military contributions of African Americans and other minorities, was the keynote speaker at the event and talked about his support for rank elevation of Brigadier General Young.
“Charles Young is a significant figure in black U.S. military history,” said Blatcher. “You can’t study the subject without coming upon his legacy. ...Many Americans past and present felt had it not been for the political and social climate of the times, Colonel Young would have been the first black brigadier general in the regular United States armed forces. We agree.”
Following his death in 1922, Young was given full military honors and burial in Arlington National Cemetery.