By Haley Britzky: Soldier billed as ‘timeless example of heroism under fire’ to have award upgraded to Distinguished Service Cross
By Christina L. Myers: SC Town Honors Black WWII Vet 7 Decades After Brutal Beating
Isaac Woodard Jr. (March 18, 1919 – September 23, 1992) was a decorated African American World War II veteran. On February 12, 1946, hours after being honorably discharged from the United States Army, he was attacked while still in uniform by South Carolina police as he was taking a bus home. The attack and his injuries sparked national outrage and galvanized the civil rights movement in the United States.
The attack left Woodard completely and permanently blind. Due to South Carolina’s reluctance to pursue the case, President Harry S. Truman ordered a federal investigation. The sheriff was indicted and went to trial in federal court in South Carolina, where he was acquitted by an all-white jury.
Such miscarriages of justice by state governments influenced a move towards civil rights initiatives at the federal level. Truman subsequently established a national interracial commission, made a historic speech to the NAACP and the nation in June 1947 in which he described civil rights as a moral priority, submitted a civil rights bill to Congress in February 1948, and issued Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 on June 26, 1948, desegregating the armed forces and the federal government.