Anna Wall Scott
By Paul Wood
CHAMPAIGN — Former American Legion Post 559 Commander Anna Wall Scott — a World War II veteran and one of the first Women’s Army Corps members — credits her military service with helping her to become a professor and serve in politics, first as a Democrat, then as a Republican.
But whatever her party affiliation, she says patriotism has been a key factor in her life.
The Army was one of the best things that ever happened to her, Scott says, including putting her on the path to three degrees from the University of Illinois.
She enlisted right out of high school, and World War II provided her with the opportunity to expand her intellectual horizons, she says.
She was trained as a typist at Fort Des Moines in Des Moines, Iowa, but she did some traveling in the WACS, including to Salt Lake City, where she says she and a chaplain enjoyed Sunday mornings in Temple Square listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Eventually, she was discharged as a corporal and went on to attend the UI, as her father had always encouraged her to do.
She actually took two tries at attending college.
Scott says her first go was a wash because she spent too much time enjoying the nightlife.
But she eventually earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in sociology and education and proved herself a scholar.
That led her to Parkland College, where she became a sociology professor and charter member of a faculty — an accomplishment she may have regarded as unlikely when she was younger, a black woman born in Tennessee in the 1920s.
At a time when the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision upholding “separate but equal” segregation was still the law of the land, Scott was taught in all-black schools by black teachers.
But Scott, 94, says she learned so much from a teacher in grade school that she was able to skate through two college courses on that knowledge alone.
Long out of the service, Scott says she has remained a patriot.
For instance, after watching the World Trade Center towers fall on Sept. 11, 2001, then-post commander Scott and members of American Legion Post 559 took $1,000 from their treasury and sent it to the Red Cross in New York.
Scott also has spent her life being active both politically and in social causes. Among her achievements: She has served on the Human Relations Commission in Urbana. In 1961, she worked to desegregate the Champaign Department of Public Aid. In 1974, she was the first woman in the state of Illinois to be elected to the Democratic State Central Committee, according to a biography by the National Council of Negro Women.
But she later changed parties.
“The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln,” she says.
Do you know a veteran who could share a story about military service? Contact Paul Wood at email@example.com.