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

Stephens, Fred E.

(born: 1908  -  died: 1985) 

Fred E. Stephens was the first African American chaplain of the first African American service unit in the Army Air Corps [which became the Air Force]. Prior to World War II there were no African Americans in the Air Corps. In 1943, Stephens was one of 22 African American commissioned graduates from the 9th class of the Army Chaplain School of Harvard University [more information]. The first class graduated in August 1942.

Stephens was born in Tateville, KY in Pulaski County, the son of Sandy and Bertha A. Davis Stephens. According to the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Sandy was a farmer and Bertha a farmhand; the family lived in Patesville, Hancock County, KY. They later moved to Evansville, IN, where Fred Stephens graduated from high school. He earned his A.B. from Indiana University in 1932 and his LL.D. from Shorter College in 1942. He was pastor of AME churches in Atlanta, GA; Tucson, AZ; and Columbia, MO.

Stephens was a member of the NAACP national board and general chairman of the branch in Kansas City, MO. He was a member of the YMCA, the Masons, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; he also served as vice president of the Young Democratic League.

He was also the author of newspaper and journal articles and was a radio announcer in Arizona and Missouri. In the late 1950s, Stephens served as pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Kansas City. In the 1970s, Stephens was pastor of the first AME Church in Los Angeles; in 1975 he officiated at the marriage of Ralph Russell and Debraca Denise Foxx, daughter of comedian and actor Redd Foxx. Rev. Stephens died in Los Angeles in April 1985.

For more see Chaplain Fred E. Stephens in The Encyclopaedia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, compiled by Bishop R. R. Wright; P. D. Davis, "22 receive commission as Chaplain," Plaindealer, 7/9/1943, p. 5; and Rev. Fred Stephens in a  photograph on p. 203 in The Crisis, April 1958 [available online at Google Books].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Pulaski County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Hancock County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Tateville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Patesville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Stephens, Fred E.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 19, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-02 17:24:59