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Spelman College 2018 WEL Graduates

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Dolores H. Hampton Shares Her Inspiring Story of Perseverance and Success

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Fated Encounters

Fate has always had plans for Dolores H. Hampton. Three key moments pushed her into her destiny. While working a civilian job, her baby sister gained acceptance into the University of Illinois. The Englewood, New Jersey native watched her sister get on the plane to travel to Champaign, Illinois and Hampton knew she wanted to see the world, too.

“As I got older, I was working and making decent money. I realized there was something missing in my life. I wanted to do something. The thing that really prompted me to join the military was my youngest sister. My dad, my mom, and myself took her to the airport – in the 60s – there were no ramps to go into the plane. You had to walk up to the plane and there was a gate where you could look at your loved ones walk onto the plane. As I saw my sister go up the ramp, I said, ‘She’s going to see the world. She’s going to meet people. She’s going to do stuff. And here I am, the oldest sister and I want to do something.”

Hampton also had a military uncle who fought during World War II. “He just talked about the military and told us so many good stories about what he had. That was in the back of my mind,” she said. “(When deciding what to do) I remembered the military. There were three things I wanted: to learn a trade, to see the world, to meet people and I wanted a steady paycheck. That drove me to go down to take the ASVAB test (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). I joined the Army within a week.”

A divine meeting with a Black female sergeant also changed her course. Hampton unknowingly scored high marks on her ASVAB test. As she was getting ready to be sworn in she was called into an office. 

“I reported to a room and knocked on the door and I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ She said, ‘Don’t call me ma’am, I’m a Sargent.’ She said, ‘Listen, nobody’s ever going to tell you this, but on the scores that you scored on the ASVAB, you scored high enough to take the officer candidate course.’

“So many young Black ladies have been overlooked. I was content with being enlisted, traveling and seeing people. How many Black girls scored high enough to take the OCS test (Army Officer Candidate School), and nobody told them  – and it was a Black sergeant who called me up. If she hadn’t taken the initiative, I would not be an officer today. I would have been happy being enlisted. I took the test the first time and failed it. I took it and I was fine with trying. Before I got back to my barracks, they called my company commander and said they gave me the wrong test. I went back and took the correct test and the rest is history.”

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Learning to be an Advocate for Others

Hampton shared her early journey to becoming a Colonel in the United States Army with the Spelman Independent Scholars (SIS) on Tuesday, April 2, as a part of the program’s spring speaker series.

“It meant so much to SIS Oral History because it is the only project in the nation that gives voice and visibility to African American women elders. We needed this visibility at Spelman and it is out there. She’s celebrated what it means to be a Black woman – who is an older Black woman, who is a radical Black woman,” said Dr. Gloria Wade-Gayles, professor and founding director of the SIS Oral History Program.

Hampton’s rise in the ranks and status allowed her to help and advocate for others. Sydney Jael Wilson, a junior comparative women’s studies major from Madison, Alabama earned the opportunity to interview Hampton. Wilson asked her a brilliant question, if she always had a voice or if it was a skill she had to learn to develop.

“It was a voice I had to develop (to advocate for myself). The military has been good to me, but there were many of my sister soldiers who didn’t have good military careers because of racism, sexism, sexual harassment, being raped, and not being promoted when they knew they should have been promoted. All of these things that traumatize a person. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to many of them about their situation and your heart goes out because they didn’t have an advocate for them to speak up or protect them,” Hampton said. “When you treat people the way you want to be treated, that comes back to you. As I rose up in rank, jobs and prestige, my philosophy was if you are not at the table with the bigwigs, you don’t have an impact. As I rose and became a Colonel and sat at the meetings. I could advocate for what I thought was important and right.”

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An Inspiration

Hampton retired from the United States Army in 1997 after 26 years of service. “I enjoyed what I did, and I am proud,” she said in front of a packed room full of supporters. Members of the National Association of Black Military Women, as well as Spelman students and staff, were in attendance.

“I am happy that it went very well. This is my first interview. I am very excited. My dad’s in the military, so being able to talk to the Colonel was kind of a full-circle experience,” Wilson said. “I know his experience as a Black male in the military, but I don’t know that many Black female officers.”

Freshman Delize Jayda Patterson, a psychology and entrepreneurship and innovation major from South New Jersey, also had an opportunity to interview Hampton.

“I learned a lot about what it is to persevere and find your purpose in life and going and getting whatever you need to achieve that,” Patterson said. “I learned a lot about Colonel Hampton and she was very humble in her description of herself.”

Firefighter Sharyl Chatman will be next up to speak during the SIS Spring Speaker Series. Chatman will speak on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in the Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329, at 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

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Spelman Independent Scholars Spring Line Up

Tuesday, April 2, 2024
Colonel Dolores H. Hampton
Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Sharyl Chatman
Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Monique Monge
Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Sunday, April 21, 2024
Camilla Lowe
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.

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