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Spelman College 2018 WEL Graduates

Korean War Veterans - Siblings Camilla Lowe and Burton Lowe share their story with Spelman Independent Scholars

Camilla Lowe 90th and Dad

Siblings Who Served During the War

Korean War Veterans Camilla L. Lowe and her brother, Burton Lowe, spoke to Spelman Independent Scholars (SIS) on Sunday, April 21, during the spring interview speaker series. Camilla Lowe served in the Air Force and Burton Lowe served in the Navy. The siblings were both on active duty during the Korean War.

Camilla L. Lowe, “Cam,” is the youngest of three children. She was born June 26, 1932, in Hartford, CT, to Willa Burton Lowe and Floyd Willis Lowe. Her older brothers are Burton C. and Willis “Bay” Lowe. As a young girl, Lowe learned to be a gifted public speaker. Her oratory skills continued into adulthood. Camilla Lowe graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1951. Camilla Lowe utilized her singing skills in her high school and church choirs. She was a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Hartford, CT. Her grandmother, Melinda Lowe, was the first “Mother” of Mount Calvary’s Mother Board.

After graduation, Camilla Lowe worked as a gift wrapper at G. Fox, a major department store in Hartford, CT. In 1952, she worked as a mail clerk for Southern New England Telephone Company until she enlisted in the military.

Camilla Lowe's plan was to join the Army. However, she was selected for the United States Air Force because of her high test scores. Camilla Lowe entered the Air Force in 1952 during the Korean War conflict. Her entry was five years after the Air Force had become an independent branch separate from the Army. Her enlistment was about four years after President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act on July 8, 1948, which allowed white women into the Air Force. African American women were prohibited in the regular Air Force until July 26, 1948.

President Harry S. Truman desegregated the United States Armed Forces when he signed Executive Order 9981 abolishing racial, color, religious, or national origin discrimination. Thus, her entry into the Air Force classifies her as a Korean Conflict veteran and one of the early Black women trailblazers in the Air Force.

Her basic training was held at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. In 1953, she attended Francis E. Warren Communication Tech School in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for communication center specialists. During the Korean Conflict, she was stationed in South Ruislip, England, and cracking complex “Codes.”

During her military career, she played several sports. She used her athletic as the catcher on the Air Force’s women’s softball team. Her team won the Championship game beating out Germany for the U.S. title. Art McGinley, a former Sports Editor, wrote about her win in the Hartford Times, one of her hometown papers. Her athletic skills also extended to the Air Force basketball team and bowling.

Camilla Lowe Air Force Military 1952-1959

A Lesson in Courage

Large Blue Quote LeftI am moved to tears. This (the Lowes) is an international story. It’s a story we rarely hear about a Black woman during a very difficult time - a time of racism when she dared to be brave. She was exceptional. I listened to this interview with tears of gratitude because I knew I was never as brave as Camilla Lowe when I was in the Civil Rights Movement. I was never as brave as Veteran Lowe when I was in solitary confinement during the Civil Rights Movement," said Dr. Gloria Wade-Gayles.

"We do not know the stories of Black women and Black men who fought for our country at a time when they were experiencing racism. I am so proud to be in the presence of these elders. They are elders and can teach us about courage."

Burton Lowe's Journey


Burton Lowe learned how to read at the age of three. He continues to read the newspaper every day. He matriculated through the Hartford Public School System and graduated from Weaver High School in 1947. During his high school years, he joined the United States Naval Reserve (USNR). He continued his Reserve duties as well as beginning his postsecondary education at Hartford Trade School where he graduated in 1949, as a Jr. Draftsman.

In 1950, Burton Lowe moved to Detroit, MI, to work at Ford Motor Company and became a member of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) Local 600. He also reported to Brodhead Naval Armory for additional Naval training. His Reserve duties continued until 1957/58 when he was Honorably Discharged. After working six months on an assembly line, he was accepted into Ford’s apprenticeship program as an apprentice.

After serving three months as an apprentice, he was called to active duty in the United States Navy. This was during the Korean Conflict. Burton Lowe reported to Great Lakes Naval Training Station for further Naval training. He was promoted to Seaman 1st class and 2nd Platoon Leader of Company 786. He was also elected as Honor Man of Company 786 at graduation ceremonies.

After graduation, he was deployed to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. He reported aboard the USS MACON CA 132, a heavy cruiser which was the Flagship of the 6th Fleet. He was honorably discharged from active Naval duty in August of 1953 and returned to Detroit where he continued to serve is country for thirteen more years in the Naval Reserves. He returned to Ford Motor Co. and completed his apprenticeship and became an Industrial Machinist Journeyman Leader where he remained employed for 31 years. After completing his apprenticeship, he attended Wayne State University where he took courses towards a Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

“(I wanted to be a pilot) I didn’t have enough teeth. At that time, you had to have all of your teeth. I ended up in the Navy. When I was in high school, I joined the Naval Reserve when I was 17 years old in 1947,” Burton Lowe said. “As far as my sister was concerned, We never met while we were in service. I would go home and she would have just left when we were in Connecticut. I know that while she was overseas, I heard about her and all the things she was doing. She was playing baseball and breaking codes. I’m proud of her. She’s my baby sister.”

Burton C. Lowe

Close Family Ties

Burton Lowe has three daughters Lynda, Burdette, and Susan, one grandson, and two great grandchildren. Rev. Burdette Lowe, PhD. is a lecturer in the Department of African Diaspora and the World and in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Spelman College. Camilla Lowe is Rev. Burdette Lowe's aunt.

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
Captain 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 and Burton Lowe
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.