First African American Female Recruiter

Staff Sergeant Correna Taylor:

SSG Taylor was born in Searcy, Arkansas. She joined the Arkansas Army National Guard in 1973. SSG Taylor was hired by the Arkansas Army National Guard as a Recruiter March 1, 1974. She was the first African American female Recruiter in the Arkansas Army National Guard. SSG Taylor was also the third female to join the Arkansas Army National Guard. Her first unit of assignment was, Company B (Med) (-), 39th Support Battalion, 39th Infantry Brigade, in Lonoke.

She served in several 39th Support Battalion Detachments before transitioning to the 739th Ordnance Detachment in April of 1976. SSG Taylor held numerous military occupational specialties, General Clerk (71B), Post Clerk (71F), Card Punch Operator (74B) and Unit Clerk (75B) to name a few. She enlisted as Private (PV1/E1) and with excellent performance she was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSG/E6) in a 12-year timeframe.

SSG Taylor was professional, competent, and consistently worked above her pay grade. She demonstrated high, ethical standards in the way she managed her career, and served as an example of the NCO creed. It was a teaching point for her NCOs to emulate. Her story is one of persistence, a continued fight for balance of race and gender inequalities.

In the Taylor v. Jones case, SSG Taylor maintained she was treated unfavorably because of her race. SSG Taylor had to work in uncomfortable and dangerous work environments before she filed her lawsuit. SSG Taylor served as a brave advocate in this case, not only for self-interest, but taking a stance to protect the rights of African Americans in the Arkansas National Guard against workplace discrimination. SSG Taylor fought for racial justice through various measures. The measures that brought significant change were, 1) escalating her complaint outside of the organization and, 2) endorsing legal representation for corrective action. She stood steadfast in her principles of fairness and lived by her favorite quote “It doesn’t cost me anything to be kind.”

On the 12th of March 1976, SSG Corenna Taylor filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Army National Guard for alleged discrimination in two segments: first, on behalf of African American members as well as employees and, secondly, on behalf of the African Americans eligible for high-ranking positions. SSG Taylor was an employee with the Arkansas National Guard for less than one year, a period between the 1st of March 1974 and the 2nd of October 1974. From the first day of her employment, SSG Taylor served as a recruiter until June 30, 1974. She was demoted from her position as a recruiter to a clerk in the mailroom, a position from which she resigned following futile attempts at receiving a promotion or transfer to another Unit.

Throughout the period of her employment, SSG Taylor was a member of the National Guard and had been drilling one weekend per month to include a two-week training during summer. In the suit against her employer, SSG Taylor charged the Arkansas National Guard with two counts of discrimination, (1) under classification; and (2) being underpaid during her employment as a mailroom clerk.

She also alleged that the company had subjected her to racial epithets and that her employer had denied her both transfer and promotion opportunities despite her repeated requests. SSG Taylor also sought for relief at a wide range, with affirmative efforts by the Arkansas National Guard to offer employment opportunities to African American Guard members as well as civilian employees being an inclusion.

On February 20, 1980, the proceedings of SSG Taylor’s trial were presented before the Honorable Judge Richard Arnold. Upon conclusion of the trial, it was found that the defendant, James Jones, the Arkansas Army National Guard Adjutant General, intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff based on her race, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as 42 United States Code of 1983. The court also found that the unauthorized transfer of SSG Taylor from her previous position as a recruiter to the mailroom clerk was racially motivated. Moreover, the court found that the resignation by SSG Taylor from her position as a clerk in the mailroom was the result of coercion and racially motivated prejudice.

Furthermore, MG Jones’ lack of disciplinary actions toward any of SSG Taylor’s supervisors and other perpetrators encouraged discriminatory behaviors throughout the organization. SSG Taylor’s working environment had become extremely difficult for her to work free of worry. Fellow servicemembers and leadership subjected her to repeated and undue discriminatory gestures.

As a result, the court ordered MG Jones to reinstate SSG Taylor with retroactive pay. He was also ordered to place her in her previous recruiter position or a comparable position. The court made an injunction barring the defendant from recruiting any new employees for vacant positions, but later modified it to permit Arkansas National Guard to fill such positions if half of the newly recruited were African Americans.

Subsequently, the defendant, MG Jones, filed a motion calling for a new trial claiming that the recruiter position introduced into the case was an unfair surprise to him. The court granted the motion; however, the appeal addressed just two issues: whether the nonrenewal of SSG Taylor as a recruiter was within legal means and whether there was racial discrimination and the exact equitable relief that should be granted.

The new trial went before the United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit. By August 8, 1980, the district court had not only entered its opinion but also the final judgment. There were no disturbances of the earlier findings by the court that the plaintiff had suffered constructive discharge from her position of recruiter to mailroom clerk due to her race, violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Moreover, the court reiterated the findings of deliberate discrimination by the defendant against the plaintiff based on the account of her race through failure to renew the appointment of SSG Taylor as a recruiter. In addition, the court found the basis of liability for the unlawful act was on 42 U.S.C. 1981. However, there was dissolution of the injunction during litigation, as the court directed the defendant to recruit at least one African American Soldier for every two white employees up to the point where the population of African American employees would be 16% of the total force.

In 1987, SSG Taylor received an honorable Discharge from the Arkansas Army National Guard. She also received a host of other awards, and decorations throughout her military career and from the community. SSG Taylor was an outstanding Black American and an exceptional Soldier. SSG Taylor passed in 1992.