LIEUTENANT VIRGINIA KATHRYN WALKER VALENTINE
In 1916 Kathryn McKnight of Shelby County, Texas married James Leander Walker in El Paso, Texas. Following brother James, Jr., Virginia Kathryn was born April 20, 1918 in Columbus, Luna County, New Mexico. Her father was a hardware merchant and the family moved to Mineral Wells, Texas shortly after her birth. When she was three years old when father James, Sr. passed July 28, 1921 leaving her mother widowed with two children. Kittie as she was known to family and friends brought her son and daughter home to Shelby County and settled in Center on San Augustine Street. Both grew up and graduated from Center High School. After graduation with the class of 1934 Virginia moved on to higher education attending the University of Texas and graduating from the Texas State College for Women in Denton, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree. While at UT she was a member of the Shelby County Club that included 16 other students from Shelby County, Texas.
After receiving her B.A., she moved to Newton, Texas where she was employed as a public-school teacher at the age of 21. She lived in the boarding house of Hattie Mattox with six other female teachers. With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II, patriotism and willingness to serve was at an all time high. On July 30, 1942 the Navy established the WAVES program (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Virginia quickly applied and was accepted. She left Center on Saturday, October 3, 1942 for four months of training at North Hampton, Massachusetts that followed with her receiving a commission of Ensign (Junior Grade). The Champion Newspaper called her “the first girl from Shelby County to enlist in the WAVES”.
Her first assignment was at Headquarters, 13th Naval District, New Orleans, Louisiana as a War Diary Officer. Information was recorded about naval units and ships that could be used later to improve training and tactics as well as to generate detailed records for future use by historians. Just months before the Japanese surrender, September 2, 1945, she reported to Wahiawa, Hawaii as a communications officer. She was then moved to Honolulu as aide to Vice Admiral Taffinder, Commandant of the 14th Naval District.
May 1, 1946 saw Virginia honorably discharged and her return to civilian life. She attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and earned a Master of Arts Degree and became a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. With life moving on, at some point she married Daniel Mulford Valentine who was a native of Florida. They made their home in Tampa where they raised two daughters, Shelby and Julia. Virginia became a charter member of the English Department at the University of South Florida where she later retired as Professor Emeritus. Husband Daniel passed in 1984 and fourteen years later March 19, 1998, Lieutenant Virginia Walker, United States Navy died of natural causes. Her obituary that appeared in the Tampa Tribune, March 22, 1998 stated she was a member of Saint Catherine’s Episcopal Church, a Global Traveler, a Bridge Proficiato and Pianist/Harpist Extraordinaire. Survived at that time by her daughters and brother James, Jr. A memorial service was held Monday, March 30 at 10:00 a.m. at Saint Catherine’s Church.
(Sources: Ancestry.com, July 2018; Champion Newspaper 1/14/1941. 10/1/1942, 12/21/1944, 12/13/1945; Timpson Weekly Times 6/29/1945; Men and Women in World War II from Shelby County; Tampa Tribune, 3/22/1998 (Newspapers.com); Shelby County Texas Hisory.net)