Veteran of the Week: Knowles works parallel careers in Army, education
Published 9:49 am Monday, January 4, 2016
By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist
Charles Allen Knowles was born on Nov. 15, 1926, in the Spring Creek community near Calera.
His maternal grandfather Joseph Allen and three brothers moved to own adjacent farms in the Spring Creek area after the Civil War.
Joseph’s daughter, Adelaide Allen, married Charles L. “Sam” Knowles, and they lived on the Spring Creek farm and had son Charles who attended Calera schools, grades 1-12.
Knowles graduated at age 17 from Calera High School in 1944 and enlisted in the Army Reserves.
Too young for the regular Army, Knowles was assigned to the Army Specialist Training Reserve Program at North Georgia College in Dahlonega, Ga., where he took college classes and ROTC with free tuition, room and board.
After his 18th birthday, he completed a 17-week basic infantry training course.
The Army sent him to VPI in Blacksburg, Va., till WWII ended.
After the war, the Army moved Knowles to Fort Jay, N.Y., where he saw the Statue of Liberty from his barracks window.
Knowles was discharged on March 7, 1947, and returned home to attend college at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) on the GI Bill where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in vocational agriculture.
After jobs with the Department of Agriculture and teaching in Tennessee, Knowles returned to Shelby County in 1951 to teach at Thompson High School and became a charter member of the first Army National Guard unit in Shelby County in Calera.
For the next 35 years, Knowles worked parallel careers in education and Army guard.
He taught and became principal of Thompson High School, was first director of Shelby County Area Vocational Center (Shelby County College and Career Center) and was superintendent of Shelby County Board of Educational from 1978-1982.
Knowles was Company Commander of 657th, promoted to major and was battalion commander at the Selma National Guard, promoted to lieutenant colonel and joined the group staff-SPO Section of the Birmingham Armory, and retired as a full colonel as central commander of the 167th Material Maintenance Center, Alabama Army National Guard, Homewood, Ala., in 1986.
He was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1984 for his “exceptionally meritorious service … whose ingenuity and resourcefulness were instrumental in achieving a superb state of readiness throughout his command.”
Knowles and wife Carolyn, a retired teacher, live on Lay lake where they enjoy retirement. Together they have two daughters, one son, one deceased son and four grandchildren.