To the editor:

Have you heard the story of Carl Chavis, for whom the local YMCA is named? In honor of what would have been Chavis’ 100th birthday on Nov. 11, 2021, I would like to tell his story.

I first came to know about Carl Chavis in the late 1990s when I was working to preserve the William Penn High School, where Chavis graduated. The school graduated some of High Point’s most distinguished citizens. At Penn, Chavis was captain of the football and basketball teams and student body president, and he was head lifeguard at the Washington Terrace pool, as well as a three-time Golden Glove heavyweight boxing champion. Chavis led his football team to a state championship, defeating their opponents an astounding 174-25. He was awarded a football scholarship to attend Morgan State College in Maryland.

After his freshman year at college, Chavis volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. He died a hero in France on Sept. 11, 1944, while serving in an all-Black unit that was furnishing smoke to screen engineers building a bridge across the Moselle River. Chavis was killed on a volunteer mission as he rowed a boat across the river to supply American troops as German shells fell on every side. Twice he made the trip successfully, but on his third attempt a shell burst near his boat and killed him. Eventually the bridge was completed, due in part to the protection produced by the smoke screens. It allowed Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army to continue its attacks to the east.

For his valor and sacrifice, Cpl. Chavis was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was buried in Lorraine, France. Soon after the war ended in 1945, the new African American YMCA in High Point was named in his honor.

Dorothy Darr

High Point