Abbie Voorhies was born on August 20, 1915, in Moreauville, Louisiana and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. She was a graduate of Kansas City General Hospital Nursing School. Her first job was with Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. Voorhies joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1941, after hearing that military nurses were not discriminated in pay unlike her position in New Orleans. She served as a second lieutenant at Camp Livingston in Louisiana, before transferring to the Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF). She was a medical nurse who was a night nurse on wards three and four.
In 1943 Voorhies married Captain Mac Ross, who was part of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and was a member of the first graduating class from the Tuskegee Army Flying School in 1942. While serving as the Operations Officer for the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy in 1944, Ross was killed in a crash while on a local transition flight. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart among other medals for his service.
Five months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor on July 19, 1941 Abbie Voorhies’ joined the Army by way of the American Red Cross, which was the route for nurses. Assigned to Camp Livingston in Louisiana Abbie Voorhies became second Lieutenant Voorhies.
The spring of 1942 brought a transfer and new assignment to the delight of Second Lieutenant Voorhies. She and four colleagues transferred to Tuskegee Army Air Base with the 99th Fighter Squadron and placed in charge of four nurses because of her skill and fortitude, which came as a surprise because she was the youngest in the group. While at Tuskegee Army Base Second Lieutenant Voorhies was elevated to the rank of First Lieutenant.
First Lieutenant Abbie Voorhies met First Lieutenant Mac Ross while working in the base hospital. She liked his manners and his presentation. Abbie and Mac started dating and after a romantic courtship, they were married. Abbie said she was very happy, remembers many happy evenings socializing with other couples, and had a very good life. She remembers how respectful and attentive Mac and the other Airmen were with their wives and with other women on the base. Tuskegee Airman Leo Gray and Mac Ross were both part of the 99th. Leo said that Mac got into a little hot water when he crushed one of his plane’s wings trying to impress his new bride. After a few months of marriage Mac was deployed overseas and sent on a mission. Some weeks later, Abbie answered a knock on the door and men in uniforms told that Mac had been killed while on a mission. She said she doesn’t remember much after that. According to Airmen Leo Gray, the plane Mac Ross piloted crashed into a mountainside.
In June 1944, the Army granted its nurse officers ‘commission and full retirement privileges, dependents’ allowances and equal pay. Prior to that, nurses were receiving half the salary of their male officer counterparts of equivalent military rank and not saluted when approached.
When World War II ended in 1945 Abbie Voorhies was one of 479 African-American nurses in the Army Nurse Corps, which numbered more than 59,000.
By 1946, Abbie Voorhies was promoted to first lieutenant, and was one out of five nurses transferred from the Tuskegee Army Air Field to Lockbourne Army Air Base as the Tuskegee base was closing.
After the war in 1946, Lieutenant Voorhies transferred to Lockbourne Army Base in Columbia Ohio. Dr. Vance H. Marchbanks, chief flight surgeon, promoted Lieutenant Voorhies to assistant chief nurse and before she separated from the service on June 30, 1947, she achieved the rank of captain.
Captain Voorhies separated from the service on June 30, 1947 and settled in Los Angeles in 1950.
Voorhies is a confirmed DOTA (Documented Original Tuskegee Airman)
Abbie Voorhies Ross DeVerges
c/o 17100 Callahan Street
Northridge, CA 91325
*NOTE: The term “Tuskegee Airmen” is not an official USAF definition, but was invented by Charles Francis when he wrote his 1955 book with that title, the USAF does not define the term, and does not determine who is or is not a Tuskegee Airman.
Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated (TAI) defines a Tuskegee Airman as anyone involved in the Tuskegee Airmen experience, who belonged to their units or who were assigned to the installations where their units were assigned, whether those personnel were black or white, male or female. By the TAI definition, the nurses at Tuskegee Army Air Field would be both Tuskegee nurses and Tuskegee Airmen who happened to be nurses.