Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Apr 22

A Leading Figure of the Women's Army Corps

Posted on April 22, 2016 at 1:47 PM by Elise Kelly

 During the early 1950s, Captain Bernice Gaines Hughes, commanded an entire Company of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) at Fort Lee, Virginia. According to an article featured in the Journal and Guide to Virginia, "the WAC Training Center at Fort Lee was an integrated island in an otherwise sea of segregation."

While the post was almost completely segregated, the WACs enjoyed an integrated Officer's Club and swimming pool.
Image courtesy of Tim Welch via Flickr

These women led the way for the racial integration policies that were later instituted in the Army. Prior to Hughes command at Fort Lee, she served overseas with the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, the only African-American WAC battalion to serve overseas in World War II. Following the war, African American WAC members decreased.

                   Bernice Gaines Hughes
 By December 1946, there were only 9 African-American officers and 363 enlisted women. In 1947 a large African American WAC detachment was established at Fort Ord, California, under the command of Captain Hughes.

In June 1948, the WAC became a permanent part of the Regular Army and Reserve. Major Hughes received a promotion for her service as Commanding Officer of Company B,
the African American WAC basic training company at Camp/Fort Lee, Virginia.  

In 1958, Hughes retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. She was the first African-American woman to obtain the rank of lieutenant colonel in the United States Armed Services.

 Prior to Hughes enlisting in the Army in 1943, she taught Latin, Economics, World History and Physical Education at East High School in Xenia throughout the 1930s.

Image on the Right: Xenia's East High School Class of 1937 Reunion. Bernice is circled in red.
 bernie 2
Xenia Daily Gazette, July 6, 1966

While a teacher at East High School, Hughes organized the Girls Reserves Club (See Article Below).

                                      Xenia Daily Gazette, May 13, 1936

                     Zion Baptist Church
Following her military retirement, Hughes returned to her hometown of Xenia and began teaching world languages at Central State University.

In addition, she was an active member of the Zion Baptist Church,
the American Legion Auxiliary Unit of the East End and the Greene County Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women.

Bernice Gaines Hughes was a strong, intelligent and remarkable woman. She selflessly served her country and guided numerous generations. She stands as a true pillar of Greene County.

                          Bernice Gaines Hughes 1904 Birth Record

Bernice Gaines Hughes is buried at Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia.

FYI... The Archives has Mrs. Hughes estate record,  if you are interested in looking at it.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: When was the Women's Army Corps established?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: What famous film director started his career as an intern at Universal Studios when he was 17 years old? - Answer: Steven Spielberg

Zion Baptist Church: The First One Hundred Sixty Years, 1839-1999.
Kozakewicz, Ray. "Fort Lee WACs helped drive to racial integration of the U.S. Army in 1950s."


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