Chalmers H. Archer Jr., Army officer and college administrator, dies at 85

March 6
Chalmers H. Archer Jr.
Army officer, college administrator

Chalmers H. Archer Jr., a retired Army captain and member of the Green Berets who became a professor and administrator at Northern Virginia Community College, died Feb. 24 at Prince William Medical Center in Manassas, Va. He was 85.

The cause was atherosclerotic heart disease, said his niece Silvia Roberts.

Starting in the late 1940s, Dr. Archer served about 20 years in the Army and was among the first generation of blacks to serve in an integrated military. During the Korean War, he worked with a medical crew to retrieve wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

In 1952, he went to Fort Bragg, N.C., to train in psychological warfare and became part of the newly formed Special Forces. Five years later, before the United States was officially involved in the Vietnam War, his unit helped train special forces teams of the South Vietnamese army.

“I always think I was selected because I was a black person, which was a good thing, because I opened a lot of doors being a black in Asia,” Dr. Archer told what was then the Manassas Journal Messenger in 2008.

He later saw combat action in Cambodia and Laos. He told the paper that he saw Laotians kill prisoners in barbaric ways such as wrapping them in barbwire. “I had a few nightmares over that,” he said. “I made it my personal mission to try to keep them from killing everybody that they captured.”

In 1967, he left the Army, completed his education and began a career in academic administration, spending many years at what is now Tuskegee University in Alabama. He joined Northern Virginia Community College in 1983, becoming a professor of counseling and psychology. He also was an outreach counselor on the Manassas campus, cultivating relationships with area schools, churches and service groups. He retired in 2000.

Chalmers Hammond Archer Jr. was born on a farm near Tchula, Miss., and raised in Lexington, Miss., where he was a 1969 graduate of the old Saints Junior College. He was a 1972 graduate of Tuskegee, where he also received a master’s degree in education in 1974. He received a doctorate in counseling and psychology from Alabama’s Auburn University in 1979.

His books included “Growing up Black in Rural Mississippi” (1992) and “Green Berets in the Vanguard: Inside Special Forces, 1953-1963” (2001). He was a Manassas resident.

Survivors include two brothers, Francis Archer of Washington and Vernon Archer of Jackson, Miss.

— Adam Bernstein

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