This month we at the ACM remember the birthday of one of our county and nation’s great heroes. Corporal Freddie Stowers was born on January 12, 1896 to a farming family in Sandy Springs. He grew up knowing only hard work and likely received little education as a black youth. Many of us in Anderson County know the story of his bravery and sacrifice on the Meusse Argonne Front during World War I, but not many realize the gravity of that sacrifice and the true weight of that bravery.
Stowers joined an all-black unit, the 371st Infantry of the 93rd Division, to fight for a nation he called home. In the years leading up to his being drafted in 1917, nationally publicized race riots had occurred in Atlanta, Chicago, and Birmingham among other large cities. While he tended his field in a small corner of South Carolina, the United States was bursting at its seams with racially charged fear and hatred. Stowers may have felt removed from all this, if not for the riot that cut short his training at Fort Jackson. And so he left for battle, leaving his home, his wife Pearl, and their daughter Minnie Lee, never to return and never to hear a word of thanks.
Is it wrong to ask why someone would fight so hard, fighting even to the death, while believing that he would die unnoticed? Stowers had no idea that he would be remembered or that he would receive the Medal of Honor over 70 years after his death. He simply acted. Black soldiers got a taste of equality as they served in France and elsewhere, and many returned with a heightened sense of civility, freedom, and liberty. Freddie Stowers passed away before seeing his men complete the victory and before seeing the rise of the Civil Rights Movement that was emboldened by black combat veterans. A true hero acts without expecting reward or fearing consequence.
Happy birthday to Freddie Stowers, a true hero.