Viola Brown Sanders, daughter of John S. and Viola Brown Sanders, was born on February 21, 1921 in Sidon, Mississippi. She graduated from Greenwood High School and went on to attend Sunflower Junior College (now Mississippi Delta Community College) in Moorhead, Mississippi, for two years. In 1941, she received a BS in education from Delta State Teachers College (now Delta State University) in Cleveland, Mississippi, and was later chosen as the college’s first outstanding alumna. She then taught grades seven to twelve in Glen Allan, Mississippi.
Sanders enlisted in the WAVES in March of 1943. She attended Officer Candidate School at Smith College in Massachusetts, and completed communications training at nearby Mount Holyoke College. On October 19, 1943, she was assigned as communications officer at Naval Air Station in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she remained throughout the remainder of the war. She was transferred to Naval Station Great Lakes, where she worked in recruit training. When women’s recruit training was transferred to Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland, in late 1951, Sanders was assigned to set up the facilities for the women’s regiment. After completing the move, she became the regimental commander in Bainbridge, a position she held for a year.
In 1953, Sanders was sent abroad to Naval Supply Depot, Yokosuka, Japan, where she served as a naval intelligence officer. She returned to the U.S. in 1955 as administrative officer for U.S. Antarctic Programs, and aided in the office of Admiral Richard E. Byrd in Washington, D.C. In 1958, she was asked to be deputy director for Winifred Quick, the Director of Women in the Navy. She later worked with the Naval Reserve at Norfolk, Virginia, for a year. She was then called back to Washington to serve as Director of Women in the Navy in 1962. Sanders retired from the navy on August 31, 1966.
After her retirement Sanders lived in Southern Pines, North Carolina, for a short time before returning to Greenwood, Mississippi, where she was very active in civic and veterans affairs.