Decorated Korean War veteran Eugene Bailey recognized for service at Bailey reunion

The Bailey Family celebrated their elders' birthdays and accomplishments at the annual Bailey Reunion in Cincinnati, honoring Katherine (Kay) Smith Yount, 92, and Eugene (Gene) Bailey, 90, for their service to the community and nation. The post Decorated Korean War veteran Eugene Bailey recognized for service at Bailey reunion appeared first on The Cincinnati Herald - Black & African American community news.

Decorated Korean War veteran Eugene Bailey recognized for service at Bailey reunion

By Clairie Bailey Jones

& Elena Bishop

Members of what was once a large family that lived south of Tupelo, Mississippi, with many of them now living in Cincinnati, celebrated their elders’ birthdays and accomplishments during the annual Bailey Reunion in Cincinnati the first weekend in July.

The highlight of the events was an Ohio River luncheon cruise aboard B&B Riverboats with music provided by the Jubal Rain of New Song Ministries, led by family member Alvertis Bishop, Jr. of Cincinnati.

Among the elders recognized for their birthdays and services to the community and nation were Katherine (Kay) Smith Yount, 92, of Amberley Village, and brother Eugene (Gene) Bailey, 90, of College Hill. Both celebrated their birthdays this summer. (The Bailey Family had 17 siblings, and the family is noted for the longevity of its members.)

During the recognitions conducted during the cruise, Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney came aboard to present a City Proclamation to Smith-Yount, who was born in Jim Crow Egypt, Miss., on June 25, 1931, “and is a trailblazer in Cincinnati who fought for workers’ rights and affordable housing,” the document reads. 

The proclamation continues, noting the Smith Yount attended Wilberforce University and graduated from Xavier University, becoming the first African American production supervisor at Fechheimer Brothers Garment Co. where she became the first African American resident of the International Garment Workers of America Union Local 224. Working with the NAACP Branch, she initiated  the desegregation of the sewing rooms and restrooms at Fechheimer Brothers.

After 30 years there, in 1987 Smith Yount returned to her roots in the West End as Executive Director of the Community Land Cooperative to help low-income people in the community, especially single mothers and others displaced by urban renewal, and help them become first-generation homeowners.

She and corporate lawyer Frank Gudorf managed to change legislation in the Ohio General Assembly that separates land from houses in order to avoid gentrification. She made CCLC a model for land trusts around the country, giving 100 workshops in 28 states and hosted the 1993 National Land Trust Conference in Cincinnati.

Smith Yount was the first African American member of the century-old Cincinnati Woman’s Club and has served on several community boards, was a star on Dancing With the Stars and received many local and national awards including the 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award from Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus for advocating for women and others in the community.

Eugene Bailey, 90, received honors including Korean War Service Medals that were reissued to honor him, a US House of Representatives proclamation recognizing his service to the country, and an American flag during a reunion of the Bailey Family on an Ohio River cruise. The awards were presented by his grand-daughter Elena Bishop. Photo by Dan Yount

Eugene Bailey was a decorated veteran of the Korean War. He was presented with a Proclamation honoring his service.

Described by his wife as being a great father and wonderful provider, from humble beginnings in Egypt Mississippi Eugene Bailey Jr. went to volunteer to join the Army to fight in the Korean War with a friend and learned when he got to the recruiting office that his name was next on the list to be enlisted so they took him right in.

After two weeks of Basic Training in Camp Pope, Louisiana, a cease fire was declared and the Korean War had ended. But Bailey was signed up for a two-year tour of duty.  So, after the Army flew him to California and then to Japan, he was stationed with the 54th division in South Korea.  The unit previously lost a battle and lost their stripes, so they could not return home to the US, he explains, but the unit eventually gained their stripes back while in Korea.    

Bailey had the job of Master Barber. He raised the spirits of so many who daily received Dear John letters. He made them look good and made them feel good too, which allowed them to get through another day. After the unit received their stripes and could return to the US, and Eugene Bailey Jr. was moved to the 7th division and continued boosting moral of the troops as the barber/counselor.  The chaplain told him, whatever he was doing, keep it up, as suicidal and depressed soldiers were regularly uplifted and revived after time spent with Bailey, who, as early as Basic Training, was named a Corporal and leader of a unit because of his marching skills, as previous drum major in college. Soldiers, and high ranking officers came in jeep loads to receive the classy cut from the proverbial “American Barber.”

The 7th Division alternated with the 25th Division on the front lines, for five months at a time.  Though cease fire was called, the environment remained tense on the front lines as military maneuvers were regularly seen on the North Korean border and tensions were high, at times.  Often, the Korean aircraft swooped down low over the US military company, causing everyone to scramble.  And on cue, the US fighter pilots quickly responded with their presence to keep the North Korean bombers at bay.

Bailey reported children wore cut off pants and short sleeves in below zero temperatures, as they begged for food and cigarettes. Several mile marches by vehicle and foot were conducted in extreme heat and then in extreme cold conditions to prepare for potential resurgence of war. It was found that serval men were North Korean spies amongst each squad and one was a bunk mate with Corporal Bailey.  About ten or more were found and abruptly taken away. So many areas of beautiful hills and mountains were mowed down to nothing more than sandy beaches, by previous battles and bombing: Poker Fugui, Oh Bally and Death Valley, to name a few.  Many Korean and American lives were lost and blood shed for democracy to prevail.

After experiencing and witnessing the above, Corporal Bailey gained a new appreciation for “Taking the fight to the people and not letting the battle take place at home.”  He explains that fighting abroad and away from the US is so much better than allowing our homes and families to be destitute and decimated by direct warfare.

When Corporal Eugene Bailey Jr. returned home from South Korea, all the people whose names ended with an “A” departed the ship first. They all were so happy; they cheered and gave high fives, with happiness.  He was the first of the “B” names to get off the boat.  His first action was to kiss the ground with tears of joy.  Everyone who followed him did the same thereafter.

Since that time, Mr. Bailey has continued to be a leader and to serve his country well as a trailblazer, in his own right.  After returning to Mississippi, he married Callie Ware Bailey and raised four children.  During that time, he attended college, and completed business courses at the McCall Business School. He eventually became one of the first Black supervisors at Keebler Company in Fairfax, Ohio, and retired after 30 years, to then create a lucrative lawncare and landscaping business which he maintains to this day, as he comes upon his ninetieth birthday. 

He is Deacon in his church and active community member, through the church and with his business, aiding the disadvantaged and uplifting everyone he comes in contact with, all of his life.

Thanks go to Mr. Eugene Bailey Jr. for his sacrifice to family, community and country.

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