Luther Jordan Brown (1886/87-1919)

by Camilia Bell

Born in Norfolk, Virginia on August 22, 1886/1887, Luther Jordan Brown was the son of Adeline (Addie) L. Parker and Robert J. Brown Sr. After his parents got married in Norfolk, Virginia in 1881, the family grew. Adeline and Robert had four or five children: Robert Junius (1883-1957), Luther Jordan, Clarence Jalette (1889-1953), Mary Evelyn (1895-1976), and possibly another sibling named Brown (Nov 1890). The Browns lived oatn 816 Fremont St., Norfolk, Virginia for decades. While his mother was working as a servant and his father a laborer, Luther, along with his other siblings, attended school. As a private school kid, he knew how to read, write, and speak English (Family Search)

When the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, African American men viewing the opportunity to draft as a chance to prove their patriotism, citizenship, and commitment to the community, and joined the war effort in significant numbers. Among them was 31-year old Luther J. Brown. When Brown enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1918 he was self-employed as a merchant tailor and was unmarried and childless. In service, he was stationed in the Mechanical Corps of the 808th Pioneer Infantry stationed for training in Camp Meade, Maryland. As a part of the Pioneer regiment, Luther was among the essential units to support the U.S. Army in building bridges, roads, and maintaining railroads to aid troops getting further into Europe. In fact, in the reorganization of the army in the deployment of army corps like the Pioneer Infantry, the U.S. gained continued strength for the war efforts (Davis). These pioneers “marched at the head of each battalion to clear a passage for it through woods or other obstructions, im- prove roads, make bridges and generally do any minor engineering or construction work that may be necessary” (Davis). And by September of 1918, Brown had been promoted to the military rank of Colonel Luther J. Brown and the 808th Pioneer Infantry became one of the first to arrive in France during WWI (Bates). 

The first combat the infantry saw with Brown was the infamous battles of the Meuse-Argonne between September 26 and November 11, 1918, which were instrumental in ending WWI. During the battle, the Pioneer Infantry was involved in combat engineering, the construction of trenches, and “ in [U.S. Army] as regiments trained and equipped as infantry to be used as troops of emergency, either for combat or simple engineering construction” (Davis). Strengthened by their training, the infantry troops utilized their offensive skills to push further into German-occupied territory. As colonel, Luther J. Brown maintained administrative duties of commanding the infantry during the battles, he held his rank title in the 808th Pioneer Infantry in France for the 7 months he was stationed in France. While the U.S. Infantries bombarded the German troops with excessive manpower and weaponry, once further allied enforcement arrived, U.S. victory became reality for the 808th Pioneer Infantry, and the end of the First World War (History). In the aftermath, the 808th Pioneer Infantry assisted in “clearing and repairing the streets”, and worked with the 805th Infantry to “pile up shells and trench mortar bombs at the First Army ammunition salvage dump”(Department of Defense).

Prior to the victory, as the war in France continued from 1918 to 1919, the severe epidemic of Spanish influenza impacted the efforts of the U.S. troops. Many soldiers not only died from their wounds but from disease (Davis). Unfortunately, possibly by the spreading of disease or wounds from combat, at 32-years-old, Colonel Luther J. Brown was pronounced dead at the No. 15 Evacuation Hospital, in Verdun Meuse, France on April 7, 1919. His body is buried with his family at the Calvary Cemetary in Norfolk, Norfolk City, Virginia under two headstones. One stone bears the the honorary mantra, “Gone But Not Forgotten” (Find A Grave). 


Gessie Davis (1890-1919)

by Ashley Pulido

Gessie Davis was born August 13, 1890 to McDonald Davis and Isobella Davis. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Both of his parents were from Norfolk, Virginia as well. He grew up Methodist. Before he enlisted in service, he worked as a longshoreman for C.O. Turner Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. He was also a huckster and a businessman. Davis was never married and he did not have any children. Davis enlisted in the regular Army. He was a part of the 370th Machine Gun Company. He was also in A. E. F. from April 10, 1918 to January 16, 1919 in Sevolyne, Belgium. Gessie Davis died on February 1, 1919.

Clarence Clemmons (1880-1943)

by Joseph Hardaway

“Clarence Clements” was really Clarence Clemmons. Born December 23rd 1889 to Amos Clemmons and Josey Clemmons. Clarence had a total of eight siblings: Antha, Walter, Clarra, Tommy, Kitty, Hal, Bobbie, and Cleveland. When Clarence was ten, he and his siblings helped their parents with the family farm in Sumter, Georgia.

            Clarence was working in Norfolk, Virginia for the Baker Brothers as a porter when he was drafted on June 5, 1917. He was officially inducted into military service for the United States Army on July 30, 1917. On his draft papers Clarence was described as a medium built and medium-sized individual. He severed as a porter while in the military at Camp Mead in Maryland . Once he left military service somewhere around the year of 1920 Clarence returned to working as a civilian porter for the T.G. Youngman company in Norfolk, Virginia and lived at 804 Monticello Ave., in Norfolk.

 At some point Clarence moved to Buffalo, New York where in 1923 he met his wife Adeline Crosby. They were married on July 23, 1923. Clarence worked as a molder in the local foundry while raising his family of two step children, Frank and Elizabeth. Frank attended some college, but it is not clear as to how much. Clarence died on January 11, 1943 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York. His wife Adeline died April 23 1949 and is also buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

Willis Quincy Brown (1885-1918)

by Raymond Beredo

Willis Quincy Browne (Brown) was born on February 6, 1885 to parents Miles Brown and Sarah Smith. His father, Miles served in the Army’s 38th Infantry during the Civil War, starting in 1864 and was discharged in 1865 as a Private. After leaving, he remained in Norfolk and settled his family there.

Willis has an older sister named Hattie Waldon. She remained in Norfolk for most of her life, marrying, and living there. According to Willis’ records, unlike his sister, he was single for the entirety of his life. It is confirmed that Willis was in Norfolk till at least 1897.

Not much is known about his whereabouts nor what life was like but he was educated, went to public schools early in his life and attended college in Ann Arbor. In his later years, he moved to Chelsea, Massachusetts. On July 15, 1918, Browne enlisted in the United States Navy Reserves as a Warrant Officer’s Cook. His time served was short. On August 26, 1918, Willis died from a malignant tumor at the Naval Hospital in Chelsea. On August 27, 1918 he was buried in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.

A few years later, his niece, Sarah Evelyn Perry signed off his service record, confirming information about his religion and his academic past.. To this day, his reasoning for venturing north remains unknown.

Sources %2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AQPZB-Z75B Url=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3A23T9-1JB %2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AK8SW-RXN Q/2?accountid=28204 %2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AK8SW-RXN 4b2830cdab1ee252c30a2e8&_phsrc=Arc23&_phstart=successSource&nreg=1 baa5322202c90062a9f3ca94bcd&_phsrc=Arc91&_phstart=successSource c3731b2056eacac87e3f065d&_phsrc=Arc125&_phstart=successSource 378795e5771736089a5301cbfc55&_phsrc=Arc116&_phstart=successSource

John “Johnnie” Washington King (1899-1949)

by Rajanae Hopkins

John Washington King was born on 15th December 1899 in Carrsville, Virginia. His mother’s name as Matila Herron, and his father’ name was George King. His parents who were both born in Carrsville, Virginia. He was a Baptist of African American origin. He did not attain any University or College degrees.

By the time he registered for the draft in 1917, he and his widowed mother had moved to Norfolk and he worked for the Old Bay Line. He worked for City Gas Co. before joining the military and after joining he worked at Baltimore Steam Pack Co. He was enlisted in the Army on 5th July 1918 at Armory Hall as a Private-1st Class e where he received his first assignment in Company 144. He didn’t go abroad. He was discharged on 26th Dec 1918 at Camp Alexander, Virginia while he was still serving in the Private rank.

King returned home to his wife Jennie Gates. He worked for the Baltimore Steam Packet Company and appears on the census report of the Freight Boat Quantico in 1920 as a messmate. The couple had one daughter, Rosa Lee, born in 1930. King worked as a longshoreman after his daughter was born.

King died October 31, 1949 of a cerebral hemorrhage. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery.

John Anderson (1886-1972)

by Tamia Houston

“I know that I was an American citizen and [I] was willing to help and defend my country.[I] was not anything [more than] excit[ed] when my country called me; [I] was only glad to go.”

Those were the words of John Anderson, an African American veteran of World War I. John Anderson was born September 8, 1886 in Harrington, Kent County, Delaware to Letitia Webb and John H. Anderson of Maryland. He was a sibling to three brothers and one sister, Walter Anderson, James Anderson, Joseph Anderson, and Edna Jones. Anderson was one who had no education but was a talented musician. Even with his service in WWI, Anderson was a musician before and after the war.

When asked about his attitude towards military service, Anderson states that “there was nothing for [him] to consider, only go with a will and mind to do all that was in [his] power to do, when [his] country called, to help defend the U.S.A.” Anderson provided his service through the U.S. Army. He enlisted on August 5, 1918 in Norfolk, Virginia as a musician in the Engineers Battalion. He was a part of the Company C, 540 Battalion. Anderson’s training took place in Camp Humphreys, Virginia from August 5,1918 to October 23, 1918. Anderson says that “the effects of camp experience was very good, in regard to health and the physical exercise that was a part of the discipline, were simply grand, and helpful.” After his training at Camp Humphreys, Virginia, Anderson was transferred to the Spec, Cas. CO. 5447 in St. Aignan, France. Anderson was embarked from Hoboken, New Jersey on October 27, 1918 via the Leviathan and arrived at Liverpool, England on November 3, 1918. From that point on, Anderson toured England from Liverpool to Winchester, to Southampton, and lastly to Cherbourg with his tour ending on November 11,1918. He then trained in Abensville, France up until June of 1919. Anderson says his touring experience “was so great,that [he] can’t explain, but [it] was wonderful.”

On June 27, 1919 Anderson arrived in New York on the Armenia from Marseilles, France. He was discharged from service at Camp Mills, Long Island on July 8, 1919 as a bugler (musician). John’s belief after the war was that “God, our Father, won this World War.”

After his discharge, Anderson spent a portion of his life in Norfolk, Virginia with his wife Mattie Kemp. Anderson worked as a driver for The Wood Yard while his wife did housework. The couple did not have any children. On February 14, 1924, his wife, Mattie Kemp passed away. Eventually after the death of his wife, Anderson returned to Delaware. He never remarried or had any children; he worked as paper hanger and painter. On February 7, 1972, John Anderson passed away from prostate cancer.


World War I Questionnaire. Anderson, John. Retrieved April 29, 2021, from

“Obituary of John H. Anderson” (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from

United States Census, 1920,

“Death Certificate of John Anderson” FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from

“Death Certificate of Mattie Kemp Anderson” FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from

James Henry Baskerville (1894-1969)

by Georgina Taylor

James Henry Baskerville was born to Egbert and Nannie Baskerville on June 24, 1894. Baskerville had 6 sisters, 3 older and 3 younger. Their names were Matilda, Alice, Lilly, Emma, Hattie, and Virginia. His paternal grandmother’s name was Mary and according to the 1900 census, she lived with them. Their family lived in Norfolk, VA, was Methodist, and was able to provide James with a 4th grade education. Prior to service, Baskerville lived at 820 Charlotte St., Norfolk, VA. In July of 1917 James Baskerville was married to Cora Lee Beasley and worked as a Laborer for Lambert’s Point Coal Pier, N. & W. R’wy Co. The two had no children together and it is unclear how long they remained married. However, on July 13, 1918 Baskerville enlisted at the age of 24 into the National Army and served 5 months before being discharged at the end of the war. 

While active, James held the rank of Private in the 9th Training Battalion section of the U.S. National Army; 45thcompany, 14th Development Battalion regiment at Camp Meade, Maryland. Due to the short period of time served in the National Army, Baskerville’s job in the Military is unclear and it is unknown if he saw battle due to his discharge order. He was recorded in the Veterans Administration master index in 1918 as well. After the war, he remained in Norfolk residing at 1556 45th St. Norfolk, VA and returned at his pre-war job as a Laborer for Lambert’s Point Coal Pier, N. & W. R’wy Co. James Baskerville married Mary Harris on October 7, 1923. The couple divorced in 1928 due to cruelty and desertion. In 1940, James was working as a longshoreman on the shipping piers, working 40 hours per week making $500 per year. Baskerville also rented a home located at 721 Mariner Ave., Norfolk, VA for $1 per month.

On June 10, 1966, Baskerville remarried. His new wife, Mary Etta Jones Magett was thirteen years his junior. His marriage license indicates that he was widowed.

He died on November 6, 1969 at Peidmont State Hospital of cerebrovascular disease caused by tuberculosis and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Norfolk, VA.

Ealey Earnest Aulston (1888-1934)

by Nathaniel J. Piser

Ealey Earnest Aulstin was an African American solider who served in the Depot Brigade during World War I. Ealey was born December 9th 1888. Ealey was born in Henderson, North Carolina and raised by his Mother. His mother was Levain and his Father Charlie Aulston who were both born in Henderson North Carolina. Ealey had only preparatory education, so he worked as a cook on the S.S. Gratitude before joining the U.S Army in 1918.

Ealey married Texas Green in 1908. The couple had a daughter, Lucille, born in Berkley, Norfolk County, Virginia in 1914. Ealey enlisted in the Army April 27th 1918 in Norfolk, VA as a Private. Ealey served in Company 13, 155 Depot Brigade in Camp Lee, VA. Ealey earned the rank of Corporal before leaving the U.S Army.

He passed away in the veteran’s hospital with his brother at his side on February 24, 1934. He is buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery in Norfolk, Virginia.

John Bernard Brewer (1889-1943)

John Bernard Brewer
John Bernard Brewer, c. 1917. Image courtesy of Sargent Memorial Collection, Slover Library, Norfolk, VA. SMC-MSS-000-182-ind-c-001.

John “Bern” Bernard Brewer was born March 13, 1889/1890 in Norfolk, Virginia to Georgette (or Georgia) Lewis and David L. Brewer.  David Brewer was a house painter and Georgette was a seamstress. The Brewers lived on Lexington Street in the Old Huntersville neighborhood of Norfolk and were active members of the community.  John Brewer attended Norfolk Mission College for a few years and then transferred to Howard Academy (1907-1910). After matriculating from Howard Academy, he enrolled Howard University’s Dental College in 1912.  At some point between 1913 and 1917, he transferred to Northwestern University. He worked at the Boston Dental Parlors in Chicago, Illinois as a dental laboratory technician before enlisting in the United States Army on March 19, 1917. He served as a private in the Medical Department of the 8th Illinois Infantry of the 33rd Division of the National Guard. He was promoted to sergeant in November 1917.

While in the service, he was stationed at Camp Logan, Texas from October 1917 to March 1918 and then Camp Stuart, Virginia for one month before shipping out to France. He rose in the ranks quickly while in training camp, and was promoted to Private First Class and then Sergeant in the fall of  1917. He served in France for eight months, and saw action at the battle of St. Mihiel Maison and at Argonne Forest. St. Mihiel was the first major American offensive in World War I, and Brewer and his fellow soldiers fought under General Pershing and liberated the town from German control. He was cited for bravery at the Ailette River on September 27, 1918 for continuing to fight while wounded. He returned to the United States in February 1919 and was discharged at Camp Grant, Illinois as a Sergeant First Class in the Detached Medical Department of the 370th Infantry.

After being discharged from service, he returned to Northwestern and finished his degree in accountancy. While a student at Northwestern, he was a member of the Theta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. According to the 1930 Census, he owned his own accounting firm in Chicago and lived in a large boarding house. In September 1930, he was in a serious automobile accident which prompted his mother to travel to Chicago to care for him. His health problems continued, and by 1940, he was a patient at the Main Hospital of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He transferred to the soldier’s hospital in Hampton, Virginia to be closer to his mother and aunt, who still lived in Norfolk.

John Bernard Brewer died on April 13, 1943 at age fifty-three and he is buried in West Point Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia.


Annual Announcement and Catalog of the Medical Department of Howard University, 1912-1913. Washington, DC, 1913.

Bernard Brewer Dies at Hospital,” New [Norfolk] Journal and Guide, April 17, 1943.

Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Howard University, Washington, DC., 1909-1910.

“John Bernard Brewer,” Find a Available Online: Accessed October 18, 2016.

“Personal Mention,” New [Norfolk] Journal and Guide, September 27, 1930.

“Today in History-September 12” Library of Congress. Available Online: Accessed October 19, 2016.

United States Census, 1900-1940.

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Stephanie J. Richmond is an assistant professor of history at Norfolk State University.