Heroes Among Us: Col. Nickey Knighton

Cuthbert native, veteran gives back through charity work
Heroes Among Us: Col. Nickey Knighton
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:10 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Col. Nickey Knighton was the second African-American woman in the U.S. military to earn her aviator wings at Fort Rucker, Alabama. She grew up in Cuthbert, Georgia — and still gives back today.

“My mom was always encouraging us to give back,” Knighton said. “And that’s why I started a community uplift project that I call Shape Self esteem, harmony, awareness, pride in education. And on an annual basis, we give scholarships to graduating high school students just to help them get a jump start on getting to college. Right. Whether they use the scholarship to buy supplies, to pour gas money, whatever they need it for, we do that, and we do that in my mother’s name.”

Family and home are two things that keep her going.

“I was motivated by a strong family and a strong family background and the encouragement from family to always do good and always seek to be better and just to never stop, never stop achieving, never stop striving and never say that I’ve reached the very top. When you think you’re there, there’s always someplace else to go. Always strive to do your best and to be your best and always give back and bring up someone else behind you.”

Knighton has a long and impressive resume but when asked about her biggest accomplishment, family is at the top of the list.

“My biggest accomplishment is probably being a wife and a mom. So I think we did a pretty good job so far. We’re very proud of our son. We’re very proud of what he’s doing now and doing on his own. So I would definitely say that my biggest accomplishment is family and staying connected to family,” Knighton said.

Knighton was the first woman in the U.S. Army to command a tactical combat arms battalion. She also served as a rotary wing aviator and Blackhawk helicopter pilot — spending years as the senior woman combat arms officer in the Department of Defense. She says her inspiration came from South Georgia.

“There are so many great heroes that came out of our surroundings. Of course, there are some famous ones. Fletcher Henderson, who came out of Randolph County, Rosie Gray, Pat Summer and many others. But there are a lot of unsung heroes that come out of our small towns. Right? Exactly. And so I salute them and I am encouraged by them to this very day,” Knighton said.