William Handy Accoo
October 14, 1914 – August 27, 2008
William Accoo was drafted into the service in 1942 and fought with distinction for the 332nd Fighter Group, 99th Fighter Squadron during its World War II campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. For his service he was awarded a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2007 by Congressman Frank LoBiondoin Salem.
Upon his honorable discharge in 1945, he worked for A.W. Davis Lumber Co. for 26 years until the company went out of business. He worked at Mannington Mills in Salem County New Jersey until he retired in 1980.
He met the then Ida Mitchell when she was a popular school teacher in town, they married and raised their family here.
In the community, William Accoo was a dedicated member of the Mt. Hope United Methodist Church in Salem, overseeing its restoration after a fire destroyed the sanctuary and Sunday School room several years ago.
He became the first commander of the American Legion Post 444, and in 1963 was sworn in as the city’s first black councilman, a position he held until 1966. He served on the mayor’s task force and advocated for the Community Action Group.
“Being a councilman was a real highlight for him,” Ida Accoo said. “There wasn’t a lazy bone in his body.”
He served on the United Way of Salem County Board of Directors for 21 years and organized a youth group called the Valiants.
Photo: September 1944: Staff Sgt William Accoo crew chief at Ramitelli Air Base, Apulia Italy, of the 15th U.S. Air Force. Competition is great among individual crew chiefs of the all-Negro P-51 Mustang Fighter Group of the 15th Air Force in Italy, and it’s never more evident than in this picture which shows Staff Sgt Accoo washing his plane down with soap and water. After this he will wax it.