From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

WACs Beaten in Elizabethtown, KY

In 1945, three African American members of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) were beaten by police officers for sitting in the waiting room for whites at the Greyhound bus station in Elizabethtown, KY. One of the women, PFC Helen Smith of Syracuse, NY, was taken to jail and released a few hours later, bleeding from her injuries. PFC Georgia Boston, from Texas, and Pvt. Tommie Smith from Lexington, were also beaten. Helen Smith spent a week in the hospital recovering from her injuries.

The women continued on their return to Fort Knox. When they arrived on base, they were summoned by the commanding officer, then lectured about obeying the supposed segregation laws of Kentucky pertaining to public buildings and transportation. The women were court-martialed. They were defended by Lieutenant W. Robert Ming, base legal officer at Godman Field under Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct. 

The Baxter General Hospital Veterans Committee for Equal Rights petitioned the Secretary of War to investigate the brutal beating of three Negro WACs in Elizabethtown, KY. Elizabethtown attorney, D. M. Cooper, said that Elizabethtown city officials would welcome an investigation by the War Department. "Evidence introduced at the time indicated the three Negro WACs objected when city policeman, Robert Irwin, ordered them to leave a white waiting room in an Elizabethtown bus station."

In July of 1945, the three women were found innocent of all charges. The Louisville NAACP Branch wanted to take action against policeman Robert Irwin for the beating of the women.

For more see Harry McAlpin, "Beat by cops: WACs to stand trial, violated Ky. Jim Crow," Indianapolis Recorder, 8/4/1945, p. 1; "Wac's Beating Case" in The Negro Handbook, 1946-1947, edited by F. Murray; Creating GI Jane, by L. D. Meyer; To Serve My County, To Serve My Raceby B. L. Moore; "Council demands investigation of WACs' beating," Baltimore Afro-American, 8/11/1945, p. 12; and quote from "Probe of beating of 3 Negro WACs is sought," The Owensboro Messenger, 09/01/1945, p.2; "Knox court-martial frees Negro WACs," Sunday Herald-Leader, 07/29/1945, p.25; "Courtmartial frees WACs; NAACP in action against cop," The New York Age, 08/11/1945, p.2.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Hardin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Bullitt County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Elizabethtown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fort Knox, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Indianapolis recorder (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Negro handbook 1946-1947
NKAA Source: Creating GI Jane: sexuality and power in the Women's Army Corps during World War II
NKAA Source: To serve my country, to serve my race (book)
NKAA Source: The Afro-American (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Owensboro messenger (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Sunday Herald-Leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The New York age (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  McAlpin, Harry Sylvester
NKAA Entry:  Guy, Tommie D. Smith

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“WACs Beaten in Elizabethtown, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 21, 2022, https://ukscrc001.net/nkaa/items/show/1789.

Last modified: 2021-11-21 13:30:06