written by Todd DePastino

Photo of Romay Johnson Davis in 2023 and a photo of her from WWII

Last October, Elizabeth Anne Helm-Frazier contacted me to call upon folks to send birthday cards to Romay Johnson Davis, one of the oldest World War II veterans in the world, who celebrated her 104th birthday on October 29, 2023. Ms. Romay was a member of the famed 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only all-African American, all-female unit that served overseas during World War II.

Ms. Romay celebrated her 104th birthday in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where she is a member. Yes, THE Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., organized the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.

“True to her Army WWII service,” Elizabeth told me, “Ms. Romay LOVES mail.”

The goal was to see her receive 104 birthday cards for the occasion.

She got more than twice that many, and our Facebook post about it was by far the most clicked and shared and commented upon we’ve ever had, by far.

One group that made a special effort to honor Ms. Romay was the St Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the largest historically Black sorority in the country. Delta Sigma Theta has a long history of public service, stretching back to its founding in 1913 at Howard University.

Last year, the St Petersburg chapter read Sisters in Arms: A Novel of the Daring Black Women Who Served During World War IIabout members of the 6888th.  The women of the chapter were inspired by the book and wanted to thank Ms. Romay for her service to our country.

Deborah Sheppard-Brooks, Arts & Letter Chair of the chapter, sent me a collage she did of some of the cards, letters, and other tributes the chapter collected to send to Ms. Romay.

Collage of card sent to Romay Johnson Davis on her 104th birthday in 2023

I asked Deborah to tell me why she and her sisters had gone through some much time and effort to fashion their tribute. She said this:

With a storied history and a steadfast commitment to public service, our sorority stands as a formidable advocate for social justice and community empowerment.

The Saint Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Arts & Letters Committee chose the book Sisters in Arms for our chapter book read and author’s spotlight. The author’s spotlight was held virtually in January of this year. The committee thought it would be a great opportunity to join in on the birthday card drive for Ms. Romay Johnson Davis since the chapter had learned about the rich history of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Ms. Davis, a member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, embodies a living link to a pivotal chapter in our nation’s history, and it was our privilege to honor her on her 104th birthday.

Within our esteemed organization, the Arts and Letters Committee plays a pivotal role. This devoted group actively embraces and champions artistic expression and literary pursuits, contributing significantly to the cultural enrichment of our sorority. Our creative initiatives create a space where the arts not only flourish but also play a vital role in community engagement, aligning seamlessly with the values and mission of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

At the core of our mission is the commitment to bridging generational gaps and connecting with those who have paved the way before us. We hold a profound belief in the significance of honoring and cherishing the stories and experiences of esteemed individuals such as Ms. Davis, a cherished older veteran. Connecting younger generations with these living legends is not merely a mission—it’s a heartfelt commitment to preserving history, fostering understanding, and expressing gratitude for the sacrifices made by those who came before us.

You can read Deborah’s full letter below.
I want to thank Deborah and the women of Delta Sigma Theta for honoring Romay Johnson Davis and for the work they do keeping our history alive. The VBC is honored to be associated with your chapter!