Marker #1970 in Anderson County notes the achievements of Anna Mac Clarke as a pioneer in military leadership and in ending segregation on military bases.
Anna Mack Mitchel was born on June 20, 1919, in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Her mother, Nora Mitchel, was a cook, and her father, Tom Clark, was a laborer. Her parents never married. Anna took her father’s last name, adding an "e"to the end, and also removed the "k" from the end of her middle name.
Clarke received her high school diploma from Lawrenceburg High School and continued her education at Kentucky State College in Frankfort (now known as Kentucky State University). She graduated in June 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics with a Certificate of Sunday Training School.
Struggling to find a job in Kentucky, during the summer of 1941, Clarke first found employment at a Girl Scouts camp in New York State. In the fall of that year, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to work at the Nash House Community Center as the recreation director.
In October 1942, Anna Mac Clarke joined the war effort through the All-Volunteer Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). After completing her basic training, she enrolled in the WAAC Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Des Moines. Including Clarke, only three African-American women enlisted in her recently desegregated WAAC OCS course. Out of those women, Third Officer Anna Clarke was the only one to complete the course, which she did in February 1943.
Although the OSC course was integrated, Fort Des Moines remained racially segregated. The officers club there did not allow black officers to enter, and Clarke lived an isolated life while on the base.
In February 1943, she received orders to become the Fourth Company, Third Regiment’s Platoon Leader. This title distinguished her as the first African-American WAAC to command an all-white unit. In 1943, WAAC became the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a part of the regular Army. The WAC appointed Clarke as a first lieutenant. Over the next year, Clarke commanded several black units in various places across the country including Indiana and California.
Eventually, Clark moved to Douglas Army Air Field in southeastern Arizona. There, she commanded WAC Unit Section D, the first group of WACs on the base. The unit preformed many duties previously held by men, including airplane maintenance.
Clarke and several other African-American WACs caused a stir on the base when they refused to sit in the corner of the theater designated for blacks. News of this incident reached the commanding officer of Douglas Army Air Field, Colonel Harvey Dyer. He proceeded to release a statement in February 1944, which ended segregation and discriminatory practices on at the base.
Unfortunately, Clarke’s career ended abruptly when she became sick in March 1944. Doctors diagnosed her with appendicitis, but the organ ruptured and gangrene set in quickly. On April 19, 1944, Clark died on the base. Her body was sent back to Kentucky, where she was buried in Woodlawns Hill Cemetery.