Kesler Duvalle Cherry was born on Thursday April 18th, 1895 in Norfolk, Virginia to Charles S. Cherry and Emma Gray. Kesler had a younger brother named Charles, who was four years younger than him. The Cherrys lived on Washington Ave in the Tanner’s Creek District of Norfolk, Virginia. They were devout Baptists and raised their son as such in the early part of his life. Kesler Cherry attended John T. West School which was also known as Tanner’s Creek School No.4 or Barborville School. John T. West School was a historic school for African-American children that sought to teach students on a high school level located in Norfolk, Virginia. After high school Cherry continued his education at Norfolk Mission College. He would not go on to finish his education but instead Cherry chose a path to serve his country.
On June 4th 1918, Cherry enlisted as a private into the Virginia National Guard of Army. While in the service, Cherry trained at Hampton Institute which is now Hampton University, as a Private in the Students Army Training Corp (SATC). Due to heavy segregation in the Army during that time, African-American soldiers where in separate units away from their white counterparts. While at Hampton Institute, he worked as an electrical instructor while still in service to the country. Cherry was enlisted for several months and saw no combat, due to the fact that he was in the Students Army Training Corp (SATC) program. On December 16th, 1918 Cherry was honorably discharged and rated as an electrical sergeant in his colored unit. However, his rate held no real value in the Army and therefore was not warranted. When asked about his attitude towards the military Cherry stated, “I really wanted to do service on the other side, the reason I enlisted.”
After being discharged from service, Cherry went back home to Norfolk, Virginia where continued his work as an electrician’s helper. He was never married and did not father any children. On May 12th 1929, Cherry died and was later buried at the African American Calvary Cemetery in Norfolk, Virginia. Calvary Cemetery was the first cemetery in Norfolk that buried African American veterans of all military services and eventually African Americans from all occupations.
“Kesler D. Cherry,” Find A Grave.org Available online: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=102583809 December 8, 2016.
United States Census, 1900-1920.
Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
“National Register Information System”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
Aaron Jones is an ROTC cadet at Norfolk State University.