Vivian “Millie” Bailey, who led an all-female detachment in World War II during segregation in the South, died Sunday in her Columbia, Maryland, home. She was 104.
Bailey lived in Howard County and served the community for more than 50 years after her service in the Army, according to an obituary on the funeral home’s website.
Born in D.C. and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bailey worked as a stenographer and medical records clerk for eight years before serving in the Army.
“She was a pioneer lighting the way for subsequent generations inspiring community leadership,” her obituary said. “Millie’s simple challenge taught us to give back to our communities.”
In December of 1942, Bailey joined what would later become known as the Women’s Army Corps. She served until January 1946 and was promoted to first lieutenant.
“Despite the added challenges of serving in the military during a segregated era, she wore her uniform proudly and walked with dignity navigating the challenges while serving in the deep South,” her obituary states.
She was one of only two African American women to be selected to attend the Adjutant General School in Texas. It was her only nonsegregated posting.
She graduated and earned the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and a letter of commendation.
Making a difference in the DMV
After serving in the Army, she moved to Chicago and worked for the Social Security Administration. In 1970, she moved to Howard County with her husband, William “Bill” Harrison Bailey.
Five years later, she retired, and spent the next 50 years volunteering. She became the longest serving member of the Howard County General Hospital Board of Trustees after 23 years.
“She was very committed to philanthropic causes that she cared about, and health care for the community was one of them … She took a very active role in this hospital,” said Dr. Mohammed Shafeeq Ahmed, president of Howard County General Hospital, which is a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Working with Bailey over the years, Ahmed said he was struck by how “she is very on top of things.”
Ahmed said even at 104, Bailey was making an impact as a member of the hospital’s leadership and legacy societies for people who contribute more than $100,000.
“She even recently supported our caregiver campaign in January, when we were having the omicron surge. So, it’s not like this was contributions that she had years ago and just left it at that, even up till now, she still found reasons to contribute and was still helping the hospital,” Ahmed said. “So I think that’s pretty amazing.”
In August 2021, the hospital renamed its newly reopened cafeteria for Bailey and her husband, William Harrison Bailey.
Bailey was passionate about addressing issues of student hunger. “She supported a lot of nonprofits here in Howard County, and Howard Community College just happened to be one of the lucky ones,” said Missy Mattey, executive director of the Howard Community College Educational Foundation at Howard Community College.
Mattey remembers Bailey as a sharp, amazing individual who was supportive, extremely philanthropic and grateful for every day; she tried to bring others into thinking the same way.
At Howard Community College, Bailey supported food insecurity initiatives. The school’s food pantry is named after Bailey and her husband, as well.
“It started back when she was at a Community Foundation of Howard County meeting and they were talking about the need of college students here in Howard County who weren’t able to get food, and therefore were having trouble focusing and studying,” Mattey said.
“She just thought that was ridiculous in this day and age and in this county, that that should be happening. And so she was actually our very first gift ever, to support our students with food insecurities. And since 2013, all the way through 2021, she’s been supporting those students to make sure that they had food, so that they could focus and they could study and they could complete their degrees,” Mattey said.
Another thing Bailey did during her life was start a care packages program for deployed service members during the Vietnam War, nicknamed Bailey’s Bundles that continues to operate. Her obituary said that in 2021 alone, Bailey’s Bundles sent 230 boxes weighing 1,900 pounds at a cost of $2,700.
She was a founding member of the Howard County Police Department Citizens Advisory Council, according to a tweeted statement on her death from the department. She served on that council for 26 years.
#HoCoPolice joins in mourning the loss of Vivian “Millie” Bailey, a pillar of the #HoCoMD community. She was a founding member of the HCPD Citizens’ Advisory Council, one of the original community liaisons, and more than anything, a true supporter of our officers and department. pic.twitter.com/DoD4nqjeRP
— Howard County Police Department (@HCPDNews) May 2, 2022
The department also renamed their Making a Difference Award after Bailey.
In 2020, Howard County named a 26,000-square-foot Bailey Park that would also serve as a monument for veterans in the county.
“Naming the park for me is indeed a high honor and I would never have dreamed of receiving such incredible recognition,” Bailey said at the time.
Bailey’s achievements also include being ranked in Maryland’s Top 100 Women and receiving a Congressional Achievement from late congressman Elijah Cummings, as well as the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
She even found time to go sky diving for the first time at 102 in Maryland.
“When the senior [President] George Bush did it, that made me realize that people who were not young could do it,” Bailey told the Department of Defense in an interview in 2020. “It was just something I always thought I would like to do.”
Her family thanked the community for the outpouring of love and support. A funeral service will be held in Columbia and Bailey will be buried beside her husband, sister and mother in Tulsa.