Home / Featured / Katherine Horton, World War II Veteran and African American Trailblazer

Katherine Horton, World War II Veteran and African American Trailblazer

By Denise Krepp, Director’s Action Group, Naval History and Heritage Command

In November 2020, CNO and Mrs. Gilday installed a new exhibit in the Tingey House highlighting the accomplishments of female Navy trailblazers. The trailblazers proudly served their country and this year the Naval History and Heritage Command will be sharing their stories.

Hospital Apprentices (Left to Right: Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton, Inez Patterson) are the first African-American WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. 

Katherine Horton joined the Navy in 1944 and in March 1945, she became one of the first three African American WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Ms. Horton lives in New York and celebrated her 100th birthday last year.

Ms. Horton was born in Sparta, Georgia in 1920 and when she was eight, Ms. Horton and her mother moved to Brooklyn, New York. She attended Girls High School. Alumni of the school include Representative Shirley Chisolm and actress Lena Horne. 

After graduating from the Hospital Corps School, Ms. Horton served at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Great Lakes Illinois and in the Supply Department at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Navy Yard, Brooklyn. New York. 1918

Ms. Horton left the Navy after World War II ended, she got married, and raised a family. Two sons served in the military – one in the Army and the other in the Air Force. Both served in Vietnam.

When her children got older, Ms. Horton went back to school and earned her Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapy, her New York State License for massage, and a Bachelor of Science Degree from St. Joseph’s College. Ms. Horton then worked as a Physical Therapist Assistant at the Veterans Administration and in-patient care rehabilitation services at the VA Medical Center in Brooklyn.

In 2019, Ms. Horton was inducted into the New York State Senate Hall of Fame. The resolution which accompanied the induction reminded New Yorkers that “(t)he freedoms and security we cherish as Americans come at a very high price for those serving in the military in times of conflict; it is fitting that we who are the beneficiaries of those risk their lives, must never forget the courage with which these men and women served their country…”

Seventy-five years after becoming a female Navy trailblazer, Ms. Horton was recognized at a special Veterans Day Ceremony in 2020 at the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza Park. Kristen Rouse, Deputy Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the New York State Division of Veterans Services thanked Ms. Horton for her service and for paving the path for the generations of women behind her.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon also spoke at the ceremony and highlighted the importance of recognizing the service of African American women in the military. “The women who served with Kathy in World War II, the African-American women who served with Kathy during World War II have gone too long unrecognized…. and it is so important and really such an honor to be here and to recognize a hidden figure.”

Thank you for service to our country Ms. Horton. Your work at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Great Lakes Illinois and in the Supply Department at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was instrumental to US war efforts and it should be remembered. It’s an honor to share your inspirational story of service, leadership and courage.