Meet Your Neighbor: CWO Annie Grimes, USMC, Ret.

Local woman made military history

Annie Grimes_2013

CWO Annie Grimes, USMC, Ret. Staff Photo

When you meet Chief Warrant Officer Annie L. Grimes, USMC, Retired, it’s not difficult to imagine her in military uniform. The Arlington native stands ramrod straight, even though it’s been almost 30 years since she last put on her dress blues and 43 years since her official retirement. As the first black woman Marine officer, Grimes holds a position of honor in our nation’s history.

That being said, Grimes had no intention of making history when she walked into a Chicago post office during the winter of 1950. The 24-year-old had just finished photography school and purchased a press camera. When she saw twenty other applicants waiting to interview for a photographer’s position, she decided the odds were not in her favor and remembered a small newspaper advertisement recruiting women for the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

Once accepted into the corps, Grimes was sent to Parris Island, SC for basic training and administrative training. In February 1950, Grimes was only the third African-American woman to enlist in the US Marines. Training consisted of drill and calisthenics, although Grimes opted out of going to the shooting range. When the corps first accepted female recruits in the 1940s, they were assigned to office positions, thus freeing up male marines for combat duty.

Grimes laughs that she had not realized that she would be the only black woman in her platoon, which was racially integrated, but kept completely separate from the male recruits. Throughout her years in the service, she found that there was “not too much” prejudice among other marines, but describes having difficulty renting off-base apartments as a black woman. Overall, “the good times outweighed the bad,” she attests.

PFC Annie Laurie Grimes (Center) of Arlington, Tennessee, is introduced to Mr. Thad R. Kelly, (right) her supervisor, by Mr. William T. Sanner, as she reports to the Supply Department, Headquarters, Marine Corps, 1950. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photo 314187

PFC Annie Laurie Grimes (Center) of Arlington, Tennessee, is introduced to Mr. Thad R. Kelly, (right) her supervisor, by Mr. William T. Sanner, as she reports to the Supply Department, Headquarters, Marine Corps, 1950. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photo 314187

After basic training, Private First Class Grimes was assigned to the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Working in supply as a procurement clerk and eventually as a buyer, Grimes was promoted to Corporal, Sergeant, and Staff Sergeant.

On August 1, 1966, Grimes, now serving as Procurement Chief at Camp Lejeune, NC, was appointed as a warrant officer, becoming the first African-American woman to achieve this rank. Grimes continued taking courses and she was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer in 1969.

Warrant Officer Annie L. Grimes discusses the Officer Procurement Program with Colonel Barbara J. Bishop, Director of Women Marines. Official Marine Corps Photo #  A416512

Warrant Officer Annie L. Grimes discusses the Officer Procurement Program with Colonel Barbara J. Bishop, Director of Women Marines. Official Marine Corps Photo # A416512

Other duty stations included San Francisco, Philadelphia, Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, Barstow, and Hawaii. Hawaii was Grimes’s final duty station and in October 1970, after 20 years of service to her country, CWO Grimes retired from the USMC.

Back in civilian life, Grimes completed her AA in Business from the Honolulu Business College and attended San Francisco State University before returning to Memphis. After caring for her ailing mother, Grimes began to volunteer, first at the VA hospital and now for Crossroads Hospice, where she visits patients at nursing homes. Grimes is still active in the Montford Point Marine Association and Women Marine Associations, and regularly travels to their meetings.

Now Grimes has come full circle, living near her childhood home. One of nine children, she comments that she “always tried to be an example” for her siblings. At The View 38002, we think she is an example for us all. Happy Veteran’s Day, Chief Warrant Officer Annie Grimes.

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Arlington Veteran’s Day  Program
Sunday, November 10
Historic Depot Square
3:00 p.m.
Performance by the Arlington Middle School 8th Grade Band
Sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce

 

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