Black WWII Veteran to Posthumously Receive Honorary Doctorate from Lincoln University

Kimberly McGuane
Image of Nelson Henry Jr. via Tim Tai, Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lincoln University will award an honorary doctorate posthumously to Nelson Henry Jr., the Black World War II veteran who worked for nearly 75 years to clear his name from unsubstantiated, racially-motivated charges that forced him to accept a “blue discharge” in 1945, writes Melanie Burney for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Henry died at the age of 96 on May 9 from coronavirus complications.

His “blue discharge” was neither honorable nor dishonorable and denied Henry access to military benefits, including a funeral honor guard. He was one of more than 48,000 soldiers given this type of discharge between 1941 and 1945. A disproportionate number of affected service members were Black, gay, or lesbian.

As soon as his discharge was finalized, Henry began filing appeals to overturn the decision. But it took until June 2019 for an Army review board to find that an injustice had occurred and to change his discharge to honorable. At the time, Henry called the decision “a miracle.”

Henry was a pre-dental major when he dropped out of Lincoln to enlist in the Army. During his time at the historically Black college, he was a member of the football team and junior class vice president.

Read more about Nelson Henry Jr. in The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

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