Born enslaved March 12, 1864, Charles Young was the highest-ranking African American line officer most of his career. He became the third Black graduate of West Point in 1889 and the last until 1936. Young served with the 9th and 10th Calvary "Buffalo Soldiers" and as Professor of Military Science at Wilberforce University. During the Spanish American War Young commanded the 9th Battalion Ohio Volunteer (Colored) Infantry and later led 9th Calvary troops in combat in the Philippines. The first African American national park superintendent, Young supervised the building of roads for public access to Sequoia and General Grant national parks and protected the natural wonders there. The first Black military attache, Young served in Haiti and Liberia. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded Young its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, for his accomplishments in Liberia.
Young commanded troops in the Mexican Punitive Expedition and was recommended for promotion and a command in Europe during World War I. Instead, he was involuntarily retired. President Wilson believed some White officers would refuse to serve under a Black commander. Young was classified unfit for medical reasons though Army doctors recommended he be permitted to serve. To prove his fitness Young
rode horseback from Wilberforce to Washington, but was reinstated too late to be promoted the first Black general or to command troops in Europe. Sent back to Africa, Young died in Nigeria January 8, 1922, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. American Legion posts across the country were named in his honor. Among the men Young mentored was Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., the first Black general. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity purchased and rehabilitated the home of their revered brother.