Several with ENC ties inducted into North Carolina Military Hall of Firsts
The first woman to serve in the North Carolina National Guard – who also designed the original Pepsi logo – the “Father of the Airborne”, one of the first Montford Point Marines, and the state’s first African-American radio announcer were among those inducted into the 2023 class of the North Carolina Military Hall of Firsts.
Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Lt. Gen Walter Gaskin, USMC (Ret.) said the hall is intended to honor the sacrifices of veterans and their families and highlight their diverse contributions, and gives people an opportunity to learn the stories of these great, many previously unsung heroes.
The ceremony was followed by a ribbon cutting of the Hall of Firsts exhibit in the military exhibition, Answering the Call.
The 2023 inductees include eight men and women whose valiant military careers span more than a century of service:
Charles George was the first member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
- William McBryar was a US Army veteran of three conflicts: the Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Philippine-American War. He is the second African American soldier from North Carolina to receive the Medal of Honor.
- William C. Lee is considered the “Father of the Airborne” for his role in the US Army’s adoption of airborne forces.
- Mary Bayard Wootten was the first woman in the North Carolina National Guard, one of the first aerial photographers, and designer of the original Pepsi-Cola logo.
- Frederick C. Branch became the first African American commissioned officer in the Marine Corps Reserve.
- Robert Thomas is one of the first African American soldiers to serve in the US Marine Corps as part of the Montford Point Marines.
- John D. Lewis became the state’s first African-American radio announcer and later host of a popular television show. As part of the ceremony, Lewis will also receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
- Francis M. Hooper Jr. trained at the segregated Montford Point Camp and maintained a working relationship with Japanese police interpreters during the Korean War, learning how to write and speak fluently in Japanese.