Alice Meade BrownX

Born: 1919

Location: Memphis, Tennessee

My name is Alice (Meade) Brown. One of 4 children, I was born in 1919 to Julia and Henderson Meade of Memphis, Tennessee. My maternal grandparents migrated from Mississippi; my father, at age 15, with his mother, migrated from Alabama. He and my mother had 8th grade educations. My father worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, eventually operating a freight engine, a job few “colored” people were allowed to have at that time. Growing up during the Great Depression, I was an adventurous girl who loved climbing trees, shooting marbles, and riding whatever “bikes” we could put together. Sometimes I stuttered and stammered when speaking, but I enjoyed meeting people and using humor to turn away shyness. As a young adult, I enjoyed treating myself to the movies. One time was especially memorable. Sitting in a movie theater in 1942, I watched a “news reel” segment about the World War going on. It featured the newly created Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). To my surprise, “colored” women appeared in the film marching in formation. I asked around and found it was true—colored women were accepted for enlistment in the Army. I enlisted without my parents knowing, becoming one of the first black WAAC volunteers from Tennessee. I trained at Fort Des Moines in Iowa and was stationed over a year at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where responsibilities in the dentistry clinic provided a good foundation for my nursing career. A few years after the war, I married James L. Brown and had one daughter, Gloria, before beginning nursing work at the Veterans’ Hospital in Memphis in the late 40s. I received superior performance ratings for my work with intensive care patients. Working there through 1976, I saw many changes in the care of veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and the number of women in the armed services noticeably increased. In retirement, I joined the national organization of Black WACs. When my daughter and son-in-law moved to Houghton in 1976, I traveled to the Upper Peninsula to visit them almost every year, in winter and summer, and enjoyed meeting their friends. I especially, enjoyed the time I spent with my grandchildren, Jacarl and Alicia. I departed this world in 1990, receiving a military burial. Gloria Brown Melton, daughter Houghton, MI

Contributed by: Gloria Melton, Houghton, MI