Former Mason County Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein and his wife, Alice, traveled to Wilberforce University to witness an honorary degree conferred on Col. Charles Young.
The honorary doctorate degree was conferred posthumously by the university during graduation ceremonies at its campus in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Young was born in 1864 in a log cabin in May’s Lick. He and his parents later relocated to Ripley, Ohio where he excelled academically. At age 17, he graduated from integrated high school in 1881 and taught at the African-American elementary school in Ripley for two years, according to information from the university.
In 1883, encouraged by his father, Young took the entrance examination to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He scored the second highest on the exam but was not selected for the academy that year. The next year he gained entrance as only the ninth African-American to attend West Point and only the third to graduate. He received his diploma and commission in 1889.
According to buffalosoldier.net, Young’s first assignment after graduation was with the Buffalo Soldiers in the 10th Cavalry in Nebraska, and then in the 9th and 10th Cavalries in Utah. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he was reassigned as second lieutenant to training duty at Camp Algers, Virginia.
Young was then awarded a commission as a major in the Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Later, during the Spanish-American War, he was in command of a squadron of the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers in Cuba.
After the war, Young was reassigned to Fort Duchesne in Utah where he successfully arbitrated a dispute between Native Americans and sheepherders.
With the creation of the army’s Military Information Division, came his assignment as one of the army’s first military attachés, in Port Au Prince, Haiti. His job was to observe the training and exercises of foreign armies and make reports on their relative strengths and weaknesses.
In 1903, was assigned “acting superintendent” of Sequoia National Parks in California for the summer.
Young was sent to the Philippines to join his 9th regiment and command a squadron of two troops in 1908. Four years later he was once again selected for military attaché duty, this time to Liberia.
Because of his exceptional leadership of the 10th Cavalry in the Mexican theater of war, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was briefly Fort Huachuca’s commander in Texas.
Young was the highest-ranking African-American officer in the army when World War I started. He was also the first African-American to reach that rank in the army.
On June 22, 1917, Young was retired, under protest. Later reinstated, he died at his post in Liberia on Jan. 8, 1922, while on a research expedition in Lagos, Nigeria.
There is currently a movement underway to have Young promoted to brigadier general.