Fort Lee renamed Fort Gregg-Adams to honor 2 pioneering Black officers
Stars and Stripes April 27, 2023
FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. — After more than a century as Fort Lee, the Army officially renamed the post Fort Gregg-Adams on Thursday, honoring two Black officers who helped pave the way for an integrated military.
“The inspirational quality of the two leaders that we now honor is something that should echo in the mind and heart of every soldier and every American,” Maj. Gen. Mark Simerly, commander of the Combined Arms Support Command, said at a ceremony honoring Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams.
Fort Gregg-Adams, which is outside Richmond, Va., is the third of nine Army posts scheduled to be renamed as the military works to redesignate bases that honor Confederate leaders from the Civil War. Fort Pickett, Va., and Fort Rucker, Ala., have already been renamed Fort Barfoot and Fort Novosel, respectively. The next three scheduled to be renamed are Fort Hood, Texas, on May 9, Fort Benning, Ga., on May 11 and Fort Bragg, N.C., on June 2. Fort Gordon, Ga., Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and Fort Polk, La., are also to be renamed but dates have not been scheduled.
“I was very honored that they felt I was worthy but, you know, you don’t take it too seriously,” Gregg said Thursday at the renaming ceremony. “I was aware that there were a number of really outstanding people up for consideration. When the decision was made that the post would be redesignated Gregg-Adams, I was just overwhelmed.”
Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg served in the Army from 1946 to 1981, rising from private to a three-star general in logistics. At 94, he is the only living person in modern Army history to have an installation named after him, according to the Army.
Gregg was born into segregation and entered the Army when segregation still existed. Former President Harry Truman signed an executive order in 1948 to integrate the military, but it took until 1954 before it was completed.
Gregg said he hoped to land a spot as a laboratory technician position when he received orders for West Germany. When he arrived, he learned this job was not available to him because the Army did not have medical facilities there staffed with Black soldiers. His new assignment was joining the 3511th Quartermaster Transportation Truck Company.
After completing officer training school in 1949, his first assignment in 1950 was at Fort Lee where he became an instructor at the Quartermaster School. In 1966, he commanded one of the largest battalions in Vietnam and earned a Meritorious Unit Citation as a result.
Gregg was promoted to general in 1972 and received his second star in 1976. The following year, he earned his third star and was named director of logistics for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When Gregg finished his military career, he retired as the Army’s highest ranked minority at the time.
“I hope that this community will look with pride on the name Fort Gregg-Adams, and that the name will instill pride in every soldier,” Gregg said.
In 1942, Lt. Col. Charity Adams served in the newly created Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and eventually led the first African-American women’s unit to serve overseas, the 6888th Postal Battalion. Stationed in Birmingham, England, they sorted and organized mail for soldiers in the European Theater during World War II. Her unit was given six months to clear out the backlog of 3 million letters and packages.
“Anyone who has ever served knows mail equals morale,” said Charles Bowery, executive director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.
The 6888th completed the job in half the time. The unit moved to facilities in France to organize more undelivered mail for troops serving in Europe. This postal battalion was crucial to disseminating 17 million pieces of mail and correspondence for soldiers during the height of the war.
Adams’ children, Stanley and Judith Earley, attended the ceremony in honor of their mother who died in 2002. Stanley Earley said she did a lot of things in her life, but having her name on the installation would be “beyond icing on the cake.”
“The Army is sending a powerful message when it names a post that trains thousands of soldiers a year for a logistician and a postal clerk,” Bowery said. “Leadership comes in many forms and service comes in many forms.”
When the U.S. military had to ramp up for World War I and later World War II, it had to build a lot of bases, Bowery said. Large tracts of land were purchased in the South because it offered warmer weather and the opportunity to train year-round. To appease communities in the region, the federal government allowed local input on naming bases.
Fort Lee — named for Robert E. Lee, the most famous Confederate general of the Civil War and a Virginia resident — was established in 1917. It was part of a campaign to honor men “who contributed during their lives to the development of the United States,” according to the U.S. War Department.
At the renaming ceremony, other places on the Army post were renamed for Gregg and Adams, including streets and an officer’s club now known as the Gregg-Adams Club. But when Gregg served at the base, it was known as the Lee Club, and he wasn’t permitted inside.
On Thursday, Gregg sat in the club talking with reporters, and his message was simple. He is proud of how far the Army has come since the integration of the military.
“We are a better Army and we are a better country as a result,” Gregg said.