Otha L. Cook, standing, greets Command Sgt. Maj. (ret) A.C. Cotton on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, during a weekly gathering of Vietnam Veterans at the Golden Corral in Killeen. Cotton, the first Black senior enlisted advisor of the 1st Cavalry Division, died Sept. 7 at the age of 86.

The first Black man to become the top enlisted leader of the 1st Cavalry Division has died at the age of 86.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. A.C. Cotton, of Killeen, died Sept. 7. He was born April 11, 1935, and served as the division’s command sergeant major from 1985 to 1988.

The son of a Mississippi sharecropper, A.C. Cotton, joined the military to experience military life, according to a February 2019 interview with the Herald.

Cotton retired after more than 33 years of service.

His family initially settled in Kentucky, but he relocated to Killeen when his wife became ill in September 2005.

“She passed away Christmas Day 2014,” Cotton said in the interview. “We were married 59 years. Never fought, never argued — none of that stuff.”

Cotton’s family embraced military life, he said. The eldest of his two daughters served in transportation during her 21 years in the Army before retiring in Killeen as well.

In addition to his retired friends and family, Cotton appreciated those currently serving.

“I hope the American people realize what a great Army we have, great soldiers who get up every day to defend our freedom,” Cotton said in 2019. “Take the time to welcome soldiers and their family members. They’re going through tough times these days with all of these deployments.”

A funeral service be held 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 at Greater Vision Community Church in Killeen, with a viewing held at the church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Burial with full military honors will follow the service at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.

Greater Vision Community Church is located at 2000 E Stan Schlueter Loop in Killeen. The Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery is located at 11463 State Highway 195. | 254-501-7554

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