FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 1, 2022) – As Kentucky begins its observance of Black History Month, Gov. Andy Beshear announced today that the U.S. Department of Defense approved a posthumous honorary promotion to the grade of brigadier general for Col. Charles Young.
In February 2020, Gov. Beshear posthumously promoted Col. Young to the honorary rank of brigadier general in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Last February, the Governor sent a letter to President Joe Biden encouraging him likewise to promote Young in the U.S. Army.
In a letter dated Nov. 1, 2021, Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert Cisneros Jr. informed the chairs of the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services committees of his decision to approve the request, and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth informed Charles Young’s family of the promotion on Jan. 19, 2022.
“Charles Young was a pioneer, especially in his military career, but also throughout his life,” said Gov. Beshear. “I was honored to promote Col. Young to brigadier general in the commonwealth two years ago, and I am pleased to announce that that honor has now been extended to the entire U.S. Army.”
While Gov. Beshear’s promotion of Young to brigadier general is recognized only in the commonwealth, the promotion by the Army provides national recognition of service by some of the earliest Black officers in our nation’s armed forces.
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 U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, 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, Col. Young was the highest-ranking Black officer in the military, having been promoted to colonel.
Following his death, Col. 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.
The Army is tentatively planning a promotion ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy in April.
You can learn more about the life of Charles Young on the National Park Service website.