Barbara Covington was born on February 16, 1924 in Sacramento. Her mother's family came to Oroville, California in the 1870s. Her father James William Covington had been president of the NAACP in Sacramento in the 1920s, but died when Covington was 3-1/2 years old.
Covington moved with to Fresno, where she grew up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Her mother supported the family by working as a housekeeper and selling the fruits and vegetables she grew. Covington graduated from high school and enrolled at Fresno State, but was unable to afford the cost of tuition and books. In August, 1942, she moved to Sacramento, and quickly got a job as a typist in Warehouse 11, an all black supply depot, at McClellan Air Force Base. Soon after she arrived a McClellan, she met Jeroline "Jerri" Green from Coffeyville, Kansas, and they became close friends.
The all-black 4909th Aviation Base Unit -- truck drivers, mess hall workers, guards and MPs, arrived in April of 1944. Covington and Thompson sometimes danced to the 4909th's band as part of the Flora Dora Coras. Covington met an aircraft mechanic named Eugene Johnson and quickly got engaged. They got married in 1946 and had a daughter, but eventually got divorced. In 1959, Covington married William Perkins, who had been in the 4909th during the war.
Covington had always wanted to be a writer and in late 1943 quit her job at McClellan and went to work at The Sacramento Outlook, the city's African American newspaper. She became active in local civil rights groups, protesting housing discrimination and other issues.
After the war Covington got a job in the California state government and rose through the ranks to eventually become the senior business tax representative for the state of California. Covington retired from that position in 1982.