FRANKFORT, Ky. — As part of the Legislative Black History Month Celebration held in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear posthumously promoted Colonel Charles Young to the honorary rank of Brigadier General in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Brigadier General 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 entered the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Brigadier General Young consistently set the standard of what it meant to be an Army officer while serving 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 Gov. Andy 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, Young was given full military honors and burial in Arlington National Cemetery where his legacy as a leader and example to others continues to remind Americans of what it means to persevere and excel through all things.
Young’s promotion is honorary and recognized in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. To read more about Young, click here.
The 2020 Black History Celebration also included greetings from Chief Justice John D. Minton, Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey and House Minority Floor Leader Joni L. Jenkins, as well as the keynote address from Blatcher.
Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus members in attendance were: Senator Gerald A. Neal; Senator Reginald Thomas; Rep. Reginald Meeks, chair; Rep. George A. Brown, Jr., vice chair; Rep. Charles Booker; Rep. Jim Glenn; Rep. Derrick Graham; Rep. Nima Kulkarni and Rep. Attica Scott.