How Wyoming’s Fort F.E. Warren Helped Make Sammy Davis, Jr. a Star
Over the years, Fort Russell, Fort F. E. Warren and Warren Air Force Base have produced some legendary soldiers, including Major Walter Reed, General John Pershing, General Billy Mitchell, General Mark Clark and General Benjamin O. Davis, just to name a few.
Fort Warren also helped mold one of America's most beloved performers, the legendary Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy's illustrious career began at the age of 3, when he joined his father's travelling voudeville troupe.
In 1944, at the age of 18, Davis was drafted into the United States Army and sent to Fort F.E. Warren. The army wasn't easy for the scrawny tap dancer, who stood only 5'4" and weighed 120 lbs.
In fact, it took Davis four attempts to complete basic training. Along the way, he faced taunts and racial slurs from his peers.
Luckily, Davis was befriended by his Sergeant, Gene Williams, who helped him transfer to the Army's entertainment regiment.
Before long, Davis was performing for the same men who had once harrassed him.
After World War II, Davis toured with Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Mickey Rooney. By the early '50s, he was a headliner in Las Vegas and New York and a fixture on national television talk shows.
One of the few performers to ever win a Emmy Award, a Tony Award and a Grammy Award, Davis also recieved the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors Award in 1987.
Following his death in 1990, he was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
Over the years, Davis never forgot his time in Cheyenne. He frequently recounted stories from his brief stint in the military and often credited the experience for helping him win over white audiences.
In June of 1947, Fort Warren was officially transferred from the Army to the United States Air Force and renamed F.W. Warren Air Base.
Coincidently, Davis returned to Cheyenne one month later, on July 1, 1947, where he performed at the El Rancho Night Club.