It’s understandable that Della Raney became known as “Maw Raney” to the nurses she supervised at Tuskegee Army Air Field during World War II. She was the principal chief nurse to up to 20 nurses at any one time during her almost three-year tenure on the base before being promoted to captain. She had to lead these women into a career where they would be discriminated against because of their gender and their race.
Della Hayden Raney was born on January 10, 1912 in Suffolk, Virginia. Suffolk, Virginia as well as Detroit, Michigan have been mentioned as hometowns. Raney was a graduate of the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina. Lincoln is credited as the first program for “Negro” nursing students in the United States. She also served as an operating room supervisor at Lincoln Hospital. This professional nurse made military and nursing history when she became the first African-American who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during World War II in 1941. In order to join the ANC, a candidate had to have been recruited and a member of the American Red Cross, a graduate of a nursing school, a registered professional nurse and a member of a national nursing organization. Raney fit the requirements and became the first nurse to report for duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, thus beginning her first tour of duty. She was later promoted as chief nurse at Fort Bragg becoming the first African-American nurse to be appointed as a chief nurse. She made history yet again when she was transferred to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in Tuskegee, Alabama in March 1942 as principal chief nurse with the rank of first lieutenant.
History seemed to follow Lieutenant Raney wherever she went. She was again on the move in 1944 when she was transferred from TAAF to Fort Huachuca, Arizona where she was promoted to captain as chief nurse at the station hospital there. She was the first “Negro” nurse affiliated with the Army Air Corps to be promoted to captain and the second “Negro” nurse to be promoted to captain in the ANC during this period of the mid-1940′s. She was promoted to major in 1946.
After World War II, she served at various bases in the United States including Camp Beale, California. She also had a tour of duty in Japan. Her tenure in the ANC was from April 1941 to February 1950. She was honored with the following medals related to her military experience: Good Conduct Medal, Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. In 1978, the year she retired, the Tuskegee Airmen honored her “for her achievements that personified the Tuskegee Spirit.”
Major Raney died on November 23, 1987. The National Black Nurses Association and the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation started a scholarship in her name in 2012. (1942 yearbook, Wings Over America publication, Tuskegee Army Flying School Army Air Forces, 66th Flight Training Detachment and Army Air Forces, SE Training Ctr., Published by the Army and Navy Publishing Co., Inc., Main Office, Baton Rouge, LA. CPT Charles Baylis, USMC (RET), Editor in Chief and Director of Field Operations; Black Women in the Armed Forces; Hawk’s Cry base newspaper; Women’s Military Memorial Registry, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia; 1991: The Path We Tread: Blacks in Nursing 1854-1990 by M. Elizabeth Carnegie; National Black Nurses Association)
Even though her picture spells her name as “Baugh.” Bough’s daughter corrects it to “Bough.” Kathryn Y. Bough was also listed in the 1942 yearbook, “Wings Over America” publication for the Tuskegee Army Flying School. As all women who joined the Army Nurse Corps, she went in as a second lieutenant was promoted to first lieutenant in June of 1943. She was chief nurse under Della Raney who was the principal chief nurse. The base newspaper, Hawk’s Cry, in the October 15, 1943 edition, reads, “Newlywed, LT Bough, ANC and LT Nichols, CO of the 1155th, are residing in town.” The Nichols later divorced, according to her daughter. During a phone call to the daughter, Charlotte Nichols, it was learned that the former Kathryn Y. Bough died in December 2004.
Second Lieutenant Ruth M. Faulkner was a surgical nurse at Tuskegee Army Air Base. She was also included in the 1942 yearbook. According to the June 10, 1944 edition of the Hawk’s Cry base newspaper section, Squad Squints, she was promoted to first lieutenant. The 4th Station Hospital Bulletin noted that she replaced Della Raney in June of 1944. The station hospital roster notes that as of July 15, 1946, she had separated from the military. Ruth Faulkner-Johnson was reported deceased at the 1977 Tuskegee Airmen Convention.
Frances McCloud was also listed in the Tuskegee Army Flying School’s Wings Over America publication, 1942 yearbook. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Florida A & M College, Tallahassee, Florida, in 1942. The same year she graduated, McCloud entered active duty on September 9th and was assigned to TAAF at a rank of second lieutenant. She worked as a medical nurse at the station hospital. She was promoted to first lieutenant in July of 1944 and worked as a general duty nurse from 1944-46. She replaced 1LT Ruth Faulkner as principal chief nurse after Faulkner separated from the service in 1946. By the summer of 1946, Chief Nurse McCloud had transferred. (1942 yearbook, “Wings Over America” publication, Tuskegee Army Flying School Army Air Forces, 66th Flight Training Detachment and Army Air Forces, SE Training Ctr., published by the Army and Navy Publishing Co., Inc., Main Office, Baton Rouge, LA. CPT Charles Baylis, USMC (RET), Editor in Chief and Director of Field Operations, station hospital bulletins and Hawk’s Cry base newspaper)
Just like all the other Tuskegee Army Angels of Mercy, Elizabeth T. Dozier arrived at Tuskegee Army Flying School (TAAF) as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps in 1942. Unlike most of her nursing sisters, she was a widow and one of the older nurses—about 35-years-old. She was born in South Carolina around 1907. Before coming to TAAF, she served as a supervisor of nurses at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. In the 1940 census, Dozier was listed as a graduate nurse at Grady Hospital. This public hospital had the first training school for nurses in the state of Georgia.
Dozier worked as a surgical nurse on the base and was promoted to first lieutenant by 1946. According to one station hospital roster, she had transferred to Lockbourne Army Air Base in Ohio in 1946. In a nursing newsletter she wrote for the Lockbourne Army Air Base (LAAB), she was one of five nurses who reported from TAAF on May 3, 1946. She also wrote that she along with Beatrice Hill were the principal chief nurses during that year.
On a side note, in the March 15, 1946 issue of the base Hawk’s Cry “ LTs Dozier and Scott return to duty after brief illnesses.” Even the nurses had to nurse each other sometimes. (1942 yearbook, Family Search section at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the 16th U.S. Census, Hawk’s Cry base newspaper, Lockbourne Army Air Base nursing article on March 15, 1947, Atlanta, Georgia City government website.)
Second Lieutenant Beatrice E. Hill was a dispensary nurse at Tuskegee Army Air Field. She was a graduate of Hampton Institute School of Nursing. It was recorded that Hampton was affiliated with other nursing schools by 1944. Hampton’s nursing students also took courses at St. Philip School of Nursing in Richmond, Virginia from where three other Tuskegee Army Nurses graduated. They were also affiliated with Brooklyn State Hospital in Brooklyn, New York and the Visiting Nurse Service in Norfolk.
In 1944, she was promoted to first lieutenant. She was one of the five nurses initially transferred from Tuskegee to Lockbourne Army Air Base (LAAB) on May 3, 1946. She also shared the role as principal chief nurse with Elizabeth Dozier while at LAAB. (Hampton University website, 1942 yearbook, Hawk’s Cry base newspaper, station hospital roster, LAAB nursing article from 1947)
Second Lieutenant Gertrude L. Scott holds the distinction of being the first former TAAF nurse to give birth. In the July 15, 1944 Hawk’s Cry, writer Robert Taylor records the delivery in the Hospital Headlines section, “…the distinction of being the first former TAAF nurse to become a proud mother at this installation goes to Mrs. Gertrude Scott Burton, wife of Capt. Roscoe P. Burton, Headquarters Property Officer. A bouncing baby boy arrived to their delight, and mother and child progressed so well that they were discharged last week…”
Scott was a surgical nurse at the air field in 1942. As mentioned earlier, she and Elizabeth Dozier were part of the new items reported in the October 15, 1943 base paper (nine months before her son’s birth). The two nurses were reported back on the job after being sick.
In the November 5, 1943 edition of the Hawk’s Cry, it was written that she had been transferred as a patient to Northington General Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “We hope her recovery will be rapid and her return soon.” It was noted at the 1977 Tuskegee Airmen Convention that Gertrude Scott-Burton was deceased. (1942 yearbook, Hawk’s Cry and station hospital roster.)
Della J. Bassette was also one of the 17 nurses who was pictured in the 1942 “Wings Over America” yearbook. As all nurses in the ANC, she too arrived as a second lieutenant at the base and served as a surgical nurse. By March 15, 1946, she had been promoted to first lieutenant and was transferred. First Lieutenant Elizabeth Dozier wrote in a nursing article newsletter for LAAB in 1947 that Bassette was one of five nurses who reported to Lockbourne on May 3, 1946. She also wrote that Bassette married CPT John Branche, AC, and left the military. (1942 yearbook, LAAB nursing newsletter, March 15, 1947, station hospital roster)
Naomi Bernice Bell was born September 27, 1921 in Sandersville, Georgia. She was the daughter of Arthur and Mamie Hayles Bell. She was in the class of 1939 of Sanderville’s Thomas Jefferson Elder High and Industrial School. She graduated on October 6, 1942 from the University of Georgia Nursing School. Second Lieutenant Naomi Bell entered the miliitary on December 28 1942. By 1946, she had been promoted to First Lieutenant. Bell served as a surgical nurse and ward three night nurse. She has been called the “Sweetheart of Tuskegee Air Fore Base.” She has also been mentioned as a member of the Tuskegee Army Air Force Player’s Guild. Dozier’s LAAB newsletter of March 15, 1947 mentions that Lieutenant Bell was one of the five who initially reported from TAAF to Lockbourne on May 3, 1946. She was later promoted to captain and also served at Brooke Army Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and Percy Jones Hospital at Battle Creek, Michigan. Ending her military career on September 13, 1952, the former military nurse worked in nursing in the Detroit area. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English in 1961. Bell had breast cancer and died in October of 1975. The Detroit Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen sponsored a scholarship in her memory. (1942 yearbook, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, www.airforcetimes.com/article/20070330/NEWS/703300336/Naomi-Bell, www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=201829639735&story_fbid=10151584622894736, www.militarytimes.com/article/20070330/NEWS/703300336/Naomi-Bell, station hospital roster)
Abbie Voorhies was born August 20, 1915 in Louisiana. She was a graduate of Kansas City General Hospital Nursing School. Her first job was with Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. She said she joined the military after hearing that nurses in the Army Nurse Corps were not discriminated in pay as she was in Louisiana. This second lieutenant was transferred from Camp Livingston in Louisiana where she was chosen to escort four other nurses to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF). She was a medical nurse who was a night nurse on wards three and four. She said she believes she married Mac Ross in June of 1943. Mac Ross was a member of the 99th Pursuit Squadron. He was one of the five who was in the first class of Tuskegee Army Flying School graduates, which included Benjamin O Davis, Jr. In the October 15, 1943 Hawk’s Cry, there was the following item: “LT Abbie Voorhies will leave October 15th to visit her husband, LT Mac Ross at Selfridge Field, Michigan.”
Captain Mac Ross was reported killed in July of 1944 in Europe “ in a crash while on a local transition flight during the squadron’s conversion from P-40 to P-51 aircraft.” He had been the 332nd Fighter Group operations officer overseas. The Mrs. Ross had been promoted to first lieutenant by March 15, 1946 and was one of the first five nurses who was transferred from TAAF to LAAB as the Tuskegee base was closing. She eventually was promoted to captain. She later married a Deverges and had two boys, settling in Los Angeles, California. (1942 yearbook, Hawk’s Cry, Tuskegee Airmen Chronology by Daniel L. Haulman, Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, March 13, 2014, station hospital roster, interview)
Octavia M. Bridgewater was one of Montana’s native daughters. One of the Tuskegee Army Nurses mentioned her as one of the older nurses. She was born to Samuel and Mamie Bridgewater on October 1, 1903 at Fort Harrison, Montana. Her father served in the Army with the 24th infantry, A Company, which was one of four Buffalo Soldier regiments. He also was a sergeant in the 12th infantry and was wounded in the Spanish-American War of 1898. She was a graduate of Helena High School in Montana. Bridgewater graduated from the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City in 1930. During this period, Lincoln was one of two nursing schools in the North operating for blacks under a white administration. The other school was Harlem School of Nursing. She returned to Montana as a registered nurse in 1930. She was in the Army Nurse Corps from January 1, 1943 to November 29, 1945. During this period she was promoted from second lieutenant to first lieutenant She was a medical nurse on the base. She served on ward four which was the general medical ward and also became a head nurse. She returned to civilian life as a maternity nurse at St. Peters Hospital. She died on December 18, 1985. (Indpendent Record, March 3, 2013, Helena Montana; Montana Historical Society website, http://mhs.mt.gov, including Montana Moments blog, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Wings Over America base yearbook)
Second Lieutenant Norma L. Greene was one of the earlier nurses on Tuskegee’s Army Base. She is listed in the medical department section of the 1942 yearbook. According to the book, Blacks in the Army Air Forces During World War II by Alan M. Osur, “Police in Montgomery beat an army nurse from Tuskegee Field when she refused to get off a bus as ordered by the driver…”One historian, Zellie Orr, reports that it was Norma Green who was that nurse. It was mentioned in the 1977 Tuskegee Airmen Convention booklet that Norma Green-McNeil (sic) was no longer living.
Second Lieutenant Fatima D. Smith is one of the nurses listed in the 1942 yearbook. According to the August 7, 1943 Hawk’s Cry, she was “among first Negro nurses to carry their services to foreign soil to Liberia” on April 4, 1943. She was one of three nurses with that assignment. Her hometown was Hazelhurst, Mississippi.
You will also find 2LT Ruth Speight in the 1942 yearbook. She was a surgical nurse at Tuskegee Army Air Field. The base newspaper‘s June 10, 1944 edition reports she had been promoted to first lieutenant. Based on the July 15, 1946 roster, she had separated from service. (Hawk’s Cry, station hospital roster) A relative of Ruth Speight Russell informed me that the Tuskegee Airmen nurse died on Wednesday, December 14, 2016. Her funeral was held at New Comer Funeral Home in New York on Tuesday, December 20, 2016. There was a memorial video and obituary about her life on the funeral home’s website (http://www.newcomeralbany.com/Obituary/127929/Ruth-Russell/Albany-New%20York). Based on the obituary, Ruth S Russell was 98-years-old at the time of her death. She was born on June 14, 1918 in Wilson, North Carolina, the daughter of the late Lucious and Martha Speight. After high school, she graduated in 1941 from a three-year nursing school located in Raleigh, North Carolina. She then worked at a segregated African-American hospital in Florida. Later, this nurse joined four other black nurses as a 2nd LT in the Army Nurse Corps. She and the others were assigned to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field (Alabama), the advanced training ground for the original Tuskegee Airmen. She later continued her educations studying for the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She completed her degree at the University of Buffalo in New York in 1951. We understand that she did not realize she had made history as a Tuskegee Airmen nurse until she saw a picture of herself and four other nurses from Tuskegee Alabama Air Force Hospital in one of her class textbooks. They were cited as the nurses who cared for the original Tuskegee Airman. While at Tuskegee, she met her future husband, Trent Russell, Sr. He was a biologist working in the base laboratory. They were married in 1948. They had a son Trent (Vern) Russell, Jr. She taught at Memorial Hospital School of Nursing from 1970 until her retirement in 1985. Not only was Nurse Russell a nurse educator, she volunteered at a senior center at Grace Methodist Church in Nassau, New York and the STAR Program in the East Greenbush School District where she mentored students in their studies. She was also the former president of the Albany District Links.
Sarah F. Thomas was listed as a second lieutenant in the 1942 yearbook. She was from Marion, Alabama. According to the base newspaper, LT Thomas was among the first of three Tuskegee Army “Negro nurses to carry services to foreign soil to Liberia” on April 4, 1943. (Hawk’s Cry, August 7, 1943)
Second Lieutenant Mencie B. Trotter was one of the three Tuskegee Army Nurses who graduated from St. Philip School of Nursing in Richmond, Virginia in the class of 1940. As a matter of fact, after her military career, she was on the faculty of St. Philip from 1952-1953. She was in the service from October 1942 to April 1945. She, too, was in the 1942 yearbook. Trotter was born June 17, 1919 in Roxboro, North Carolina, although her home town is listed as Richmond, Virginia. She was a medical nurse at the station hospital. (1942 yearbook, Women in Military Service for America Memorial registry, St. Philip Hospital history)
Second Lieutenant Elsie H. Wallace was another of the nurses in the 1942 yearbook. She was a medical nurse and a ward three head nurse.
Second Lieutenant Alice P. Binford was a dispensary nurse on the base. According to the station hospital roster, she had been promoted to first lieutenant and was one of the five remaining nurses on the base before its closing. According to the Dozier nurse newsletter from LAAB of March 15, 1947, she had reported from TAAF to LAAB in July 1946 or thereafter.
Louise Virginia Lomax was born on January 27, 1920 to James and Annie Shepperson Lomax. Her hometown was Nottoway County, Virginia. She graduated from a Presbyterian boarding school, Ingleside-Fee Memorial School, in Burkeville, Virginia in 1938. She later attended St. Philip School of Nursing in Richmond, Virginia where she graduated in 1942. Later, she also took courses at DePaul University in Chicago, Western Michigan College, Lake Forest College, Catholic University and the University of Maryland. Initially, this registered nurse, had difficulty enlisting into the Army Nurse Corps. However, with the help of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, she went into active duty as a second lieutenant on March 30, 1943. She was a medical nurse at TAAF. By 1946, she had been promoted to first lieutenant. She was one of the last five nurses remaining on the Tuskegee Army Air base after it was designated for closing as reported in the roster for July 15, 1946. She later was transferred to Lockbourne Army Air Base in Ohio. She was honorably discharged from active service on March 8, 1949 and from the reserves on April 1, 1953. She also worked at Percy Jones General Hospital in Battle Creek Michigan, Provident Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Veterans Administration Hospitals in Downey, Illinois, and Perry Point, Maryland. As a civilian, she worked at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. as a psychiatric nurse until her retirement on June 29, 1973. She was married to a Methodist minister, John Lonnie Winters, on November 28, 1954. She was the mother of one child, Pia Marie Winters. She died on April 1, 2011. A memorial scholarship is in her name is at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College of Virginia School of Nursing. One nurse who worked with Lomax when she was transferred to LAAB said, “Her smile could light up a room.” (TAAF Hospital rosters, Dozier nurse newsletter from Lockbourne Army Air Base, 1947, Women in Military Service for America Memorial register, government documents, Daughter, Pia Winters Jordan)
Second Lieutenant Irma Cameron (Dryden) says she arrived at Tuskegee Army Air Field by train with Alice M. Dunkley and Mary Rickards. Cameron was an only child. She was born May 28, 1920 in New York City. Her dad was a Jamaican dental technician and her mother was a teacher. She is a graduate of Harlem Hospital School of Nursing’s class of 1942. She went into the military service in 1943. This medical nurse was married to one of the airmen, although their marriage ended in divorce in later years. She said that she and Charles Dryden were married November 16, 1943 participating in the first military wedding at Tuskegee. The Hawk’s Cry Hospital Headlines of November 11, 1943 included the nuptual announcement, “We wish to congratulate 1st Lt Charles Dryden, of the 99th, and 2nd LT Irma Cameron, Army Nurse Corps, upon their marriage. We wish them a happily married life and many memories of the beautiful occasion.” The story of her courtship and marriage is included in Tom Brokaw’s An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation. Charles Dryden also included their story in his book, The A-Train: Story of a Tuskegee Airman. Dryden’s father and mother were both Jamaican. Second Lieutenant Irma Dryden left the service in 1944.
Second Lieutenant Alice M. Dunkley arrived at TAAF with Irma Cameron and Mary Rickards. Dunkley was a medical nurse on the base and listed as a flight nurse in the station history. According to the July 15, 1946 roster, she was now a first lieutenant and had separted from the service.
Second Lieutenant Mary E. Rickards was a surgical nurse on the base. She arrived on base with Alice M. Dunkley and Irma Cameron. She was also a schoolmate of Cameron. Cameron called her “Ricki.” The July 15, 1944 base newspaper reported that she had been promoted to first lieutenant. She was also mentioned earlier in the October 15, 1943 edition of the Hawk’s Cry that she “has been hospitalized and in the care of one of her sister nurses.” She was still listed on the base roster as of March 15, 1946, but by the July 15, 1946 roster, she had separated from the service. She was mentioned as deceased in the Tuskegee Airmen 1977 Convention booklet.
Second Lieutenant Ruth L. Carter was a surgical nurse at TAAF. It was noted in the July 15, 1946 roster that she had been promoted to first lieutenant, but was now separated from the service.
Second Lieutenant Grace Scott was one of the five nurses left at TAAF before its closing. According to the Dozier news article from LAAB, Lt Scott reported from TAAF to LAAB July 1946 or thereafter. (July 15, 1946 roster, Lockbourne Army Air Base nurse news letter by Ellizabeth Dozier, March 15, 1947)
According to the base roster of July 15, 1946, 2Lt Susie A. Pinkley was one of the five nurses left to close down nursing operations at TAAF. According to the March 15, 1947 Dozier nurse newsletter from Lockbourne Army Air Base, LT Pinkley reported to LAAB from TAAF July 1946 or thereafter.
Second Lieutenant Mamie L. Frierson is reported in the March 15, 1946 station hospital roster and was one of the five remaining nurses on TAAF as it closed.
According to the July 15,1946 station hospital roster, Marjorie A. Franklin was a first lieutenant and had separated from the service. Janet Tarolli, a Michigan woman offered additional information about this nurse below:
Marjorie Alice Franklin was born in Iowa on August 29,1906, the third child of William and Beulah Franklin. Growing up she lived in the Chicago area and in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Franklin was an honor student at Ann Arbor High School in a college prep curriculum. She graduated in 1923 two months before her seventeenth birthday. Too young to enter nursing school, she spent a year in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan, then entered the University Hospital School of Nursing of the University of Michigan in 1924. After receiving her diploma with the class of 1927, she returned to Chicago, remaining there until at least 1935. In 1940 on leave for a year from the Tuskegee Institute, she pursued her interest in caring for young polio victims at the Hospital for Special Surgery (formerly, the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled) in New York City. According to an article by B. B. Walcott in the February 1940 issue of The Crisis, she was being groomed to become the head of physical therapy in the planned thirty-bed polio unit to be built at the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital, Tuskegee Institute. The unit was completed on time and dedicated in January 1941. Franklin enlisted into the U.S. Army on May 1,1944 and served in the Army Nurse Corps at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, in Tuskegee, Alabama, achieving the rank of 1st Lieutenant. She was released from service on January 24,1946. Franklin died in San Francisco, California on October 23,1977 and is buried in Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo.
The March 15, 1946 hospital roster records 2LT Elise D. Grant at TAAF, but the July 15, 1946 roster mentioned that she had separated from the service as a first lieutenant.
It was mentioned in the August 7, 1943 Hawk’s Cry that 2LT Naomi Green was “among first Negro nurses to carry services to foreign soil (Liberia).” Her hometown was Elkins, West Virginia.