A life to remember

Published 7:29 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

In a 21st-century world that too often is quick to get rid of its past, it is refreshing to see a 20th-century woman from Suffolk being recognized.

As Rachel Austin reports starting on the front page of this edition, Maj. Della Hayden Raney Jackson was a Suffolk native who served as a nurse in World War II. She became the first Black nurse to reach the rank of captain before becoming a major. She passed away in 1987 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of her sisters kept a scrapbook of clippings and pictures from Jackson’s illustrious career. That scrapbook was treasured and valued by family members over the years, as they made sure it was passed down to successive relatives as others passed away. Finally, it came into the hands of Thelma Raney, a niece of Jackson.

Raney knew that this scrapbook was too important to keep in a box or toss in the trash. Recognizing its significant value, she knew it was time to send it on its final journey, all the way to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The museum will now have this scrapbook and its contents — including pictures, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, ribbons and more — in its collection. People now and in the future will be able to use these materials for official research or just learning what it was like for Black nurses during the war.

We applaud Jackson’s family for having the foresight to make this scrapbook, keep it protected over the years and ultimately to ensure it made it into the Smithsonian collection. Jackson’s service deserves never to be forgotten.