It’s been decades in the making but it’s finally happened: Paschal Conley has been promoted to second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
The promotion came posthumously for Conley, a Madison County native who died in 1919, after he served in the 10th Cavalry Regiment as a member of the famed Buffalo Soldiers during the Spanish-American War – in 1898 – from as part of his military career.
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville presented a certificate acknowledging the promotion to Conley’s family Wednesday at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. Mayor Tommy Battle also declared Wednesday to be Paschal Conley Day in the city.
“This was long overdue,” Tuberville said. “He was recommended years ago and, as a Buffalo Soldier, to go from rank from sergeant to Lieutenant. And for some reason, the ball was dropped. And so for many, many years, it’s been kind of a stalemate. We started working on this about six months ago and we were able to get the promotion. We presented it to his family today. We had some people here that were very excited about it, because they had tried for a long, long time to get this promotion done. So we’re, we’re glad to be just a small part of it. This was obviously not given. It was earned. And so we’re glad to see this happen.”
The Buffalo Soldiers became a nickname for Black cavalry troops and a monument stands in their honor in Huntsville.
Ollie Conley of Huntsville said there were about 30 family members who made the trip for the ceremony for all over the country. She said Paschal was her husband’s grandfather’s first cousin.
Legendary Gen. George Pershing, then a first lieutenant, was among those who lobbied for Conley’s promotion. Former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions worked in 2012 for Conley’s promotion as well.
“It’s almost indescribable,” Ollie Conley said. “The fact that we have waited all this time, we know that he was recommended 124 years ago. We have been working on it approximately 30 years. So we are so excited and so delighted to be able to say to this generation, and hopefully the generations to come, that Paschal Conley was promoted to second lieutenant.”
Ollie Conley noted that the promotion, albeit more than a century late, was a rare acknowledgment for a soldier of color.
“For that period of time it’s very important because many African Americans were not made officers in the U.S. Army,” she said. “And so the fact that he was moving up from sergeant to second lieutenant, that was really quite an accomplishment.”
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