From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Lyles, Ruth Elizabeth

(born: October 30, 1919  -  died: June 7, 1944) Pfc. Ruth E. Lyles was the first African American WAC who died in Kentucky during WWII. She had enlisted in Baltimore, MA, on April 5, 1943 and was stationed at Camp Breckinridge, KY. She was a stock clerk at the camp warehouse. On the night of June 7, 1944, Pfc. Lyles and Pfc. Lillian Cabbell were walking along the road near the post laundry at Camp Breckinridge, when Pfc. Lyles was struck by a truck and she died at the post hospital. She had been stuck by an Army truck driven by Pvt. Joseph H. Austin of the 3800th Quartermaster Company.

Pfc. Cabbell had seen the truck coming their way and was able to jump out of the way. She was not physically injured. Pvt. Austin, the truck driver, told the provost marshal's office that he lost control of the truck. It was referred to as a "half-track accident."

Pfc. Ruth E. Lyles' body was shipped home for burial. She was the daughter of John and Saloma Lyles. She was born in Havre De Grace, Maryland. She is buried in the Baltimore National Cemetery. Her Kentucky death certificates notes that she died in the line of duty.

Pfc. Lillian Elnora Cabbell was born October 8, 1920 in Plainfield, NJ and she lived in New York. She enlisted in the Army in New York City, NY, and completed her military service from September 1, 1943 - December 7, 1945. She returned home to New York. Pfc. Lillian Elnora Cabbell died in Jamaica, NY, on July 4, 1988 and is buried in the Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, NY.

At this time, no additional information is known about Pvt. Joseph H. Austin.

The death of Ruth E. Lyles was not reported in Kentucky newspapers.

Sources: "Negro WAC, struck by Army truck, dies," Evansville Courier, 06/09/1944, p.16; Kentucky Death Index in Ancestry; Kentucky Death Certificate, State file #14979, Registrar's #86 (Ancestry); see Pfc Ruth Elizabeth Lyles at Find A Grave; U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Form (headstone) #3453215 (Ancestry); Lillian Cabbell in Veterans' Gravesites in Ancestry; see Lillian Elnora Cabbell at Find A Grave.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Union County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Evansville courier (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Lyles, Ruth Elizabeth,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed January 30, 2023,

Last modified: 2021-11-04 18:09:26