National Airmen group honors promise to move headquarters to Tuskegee

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

National Airmen group honors promise to move headquarters to Tuskegee

Community News Editor
Tuskegee News

Updated Sep 30, pharmacy 2010 – 06:25:07 EDT

Tuskegee Airmen, cialis 40mg Inc. president Leon Johnson, right, talks with Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal about TAI’s relocation of its headquarters to the Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.

A full circle has been completed. The Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI) National Headquarters is finally located back where it began — Tuskegee, Alabama.

Currently the headquarters is located on the second floor of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, with final plans being made for Hanger No. 2 at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field.

“It is the Alpha and Omega of the program,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Leon Johnson, National President of TAI.

Members of the TAI?Executive Committee held a reception at the new headquarters Thursday, September 23. Community leaders present during the reception included Dr. Charlotte P. Morris, Interim president of Tuskegee University, Attorney Fred D. Gray, Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal, State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) and Lt. Col. Herbert E. Carter, an original Tuskegee Airmen.

TAI was created to honor the accomplishments and perpetuate the history of  black Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operations support training in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The organization also introduces young people across the nation to the world of aviation and science by programs as Young Eagles and TAI youth programs and activities.

TAI also provides annual scholarships and awards to deserving individuals, groups and corporations whose deeds lend support to TAI’s goals. TAI also gives awards to deserving cadets in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.

“What we want people to know that TAI is not an exclusive organization,” Johnson said. “It is open to all people who want to preserve the rich documented heritage and legacy of the original Tuskegee Airmen.”

“Checking Six” from the Cockpit of an F-16″ by 2Lt Kenyatta H. Ruffin, USAFA ’03

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


“Checking Six” from the Cockpit of an F-16

By: 2Lt Kenyatta H. Ruffin, USAFA ’03

The Tuskegee Airmen “experiment” began in July, 1941 when the first class of cadets began training at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Less than one year later, General Lloyd “Fig” Newton was born in June, 1942 in South Carolina. The “Red Tailed Angels” first combat missions were flown in February, 1944. In June 1966, Colonel Fredrick Gregory flew his first combat mission in Vietnam. Finally, in July 1948, the military was “officially” desegregated when President Truman signed Executive Order Number 9981. And finally, as a result of these events and through the blood, sweat and tears of these men, on April 25, 2005 I passed my initial qualification checkride and became an official F-16 Viper pilot.

As we all know, the Tuskegee Airmen “experiment” was a huge success and directly contributed to General Newton becoming the first African-American to be a member of the USAF Thunderbirds and Colonel Gregory to be the first African-American to command the space shuttle… and me? Only God knows what the future has in store, but I can certainly say that whatever success I may have and whatever achievements I have already attained, I owe my unending gratitude and appreciation to the Tuskegee Airmen.

The brave men and women of the Tuskegee Airmen endured the hardships and overcame the obstacles they did to pave the way for you and for me. They were denied entrance into the officer’s club, even though they were commissioned United States Military Officers. They were forced to train well above and beyond the standards in place for the “regular” military. Although their success was undeniable, their recognition was often officially absent or “lost” as was the case at the 1949 National Fighter Gunnery Meet at Nellis AFB, NV.

Constantly I am reminded of the legacy that we now stand upon. I think of the great men that have gone before me and am humbled. Lee Archer, Charles Williams, Buck Newsum, John Mosley, Roy Chappell, and Chappie James. “Competence, courage, commitment, and capacity” certainly do describe these men. It is their “integrity, service, and excellence” that inspires me every day

  • Everyone in the Tuskegee Airmen – pilots, instructors, mechanics, and supply officers alike – all paved the way for integration of the military and have truly set an example for us to follow. Let us not be slow, blind, or discouraged in keeping their legacy alive. They “accepted the challenge,” served their country with distinction, and set the standard. Now, we not only owe them our admiration, we owe them the same commitment to duty that they showed. NASA astronaut Colonel Yvonne Cagle said it best, “Are you ready to put your best to the test?”
    Excerpts from the Tuskegee Airmen Induction Ceremony – speech given by Gen Hal Hornburg (some reasons why we need to either become a part of or continue being a part of the Tuskegee Airmen and other minority-empowering groups like WLC Alumni etc..)
  • Not Enough Black Aviators

    The challenge we face in the Air Force right now is we don’t have enough black aviators …

    • Last month at the 32nd Annual Tuskegee Airmen Conference, General Lester Lyles addressed this same issue

    • I agree with his concernsIn WWII we trained 992 pilots at Tuskegee, 450 of whom were sent overseas for combat assignmen

    • Today we have only 490 black aviators in our Air Force … only about 2.5 percent of total Air Force aviators … not enough, because we’re a better organization if we have sharp people from many backgrounds

    • When I was Commander of A-E-T-C a couple of years ago, briefed this same topic at CORONA … and it is still a challenge we continue to work todayThe Tuskegee Airmen help with this challenge … strong local chapters with strong outreach programs can and do make a differenceThough they may not realize it, the young men and women that get to meet and be mentored by some of the original Tuskegee Airmen are lucky
    • It is not very often that we get to interact directly with those that made history
    • Just think if we could talk to some of our leaders from the Revolutionary War .. Meeting and talking to an original Tuskegee Airmen is on that level … In a few decades, there won’t be any original Tuskegee Airmen alive …We need to take advantage of these opportunities when we can … and encourage participation in their chapters and programs
    • The Tuskegee Airmen mentor, lead and coach young men and women into our Air Force … and not just all black men and women either
    • It is our job to carry the torch and develop them into long term successes The Tuskegee Airmen did it by example … and now they motivate with just their presence Annual ConferencAt their 32nd Annual convention last month in Denver the Tuskegee Airmen focused on a couple of important issuesMoving ahead to the futureEstablishing a national youth program to inspire, motivate and assist minority youth towards military, aviation and aerospace careersI’m excited to know there are independent organizations like the Tuskegee Airmen doing so much for our Air ForceYou probably didn’t know that since 1978, the Tuskegee Airmenhave awarded over 1.7 million dollars[1] in scholarships…. that’s a lot of education Our Air Force has similar goals of looking ahead to the future and cultivating our youth I’m proud to now be a part the Tuskegee Airmen because of these shared goalsI will continue the fight as long as I wear this uniform to support our Air Force and the diverse airmen that make it the world’s best

Malber Jones

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent


Malber Jones, 16, of Chicago barely could contain his excitement. While walking on the tarmac outside Hangar 10 at Palwaukee Community Airport in Wheeling, after going up in a private plane, he felt like he was walking on air. “It was my first time on an airplane,” Jones said excitedly. “We flew all the way to the lake. He let me take the wheel and fly the plane.”

Jones was one of 25 educably mentally handicapped students from Jacqueline Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago, who spent the day at Palwaukee as part of a project called “Challenge Air.”

The innovative flying experience is the result of a partnership between members of the Federal Aviation Authority, Signature Flight at Palwaukee, and the Young Eagles pilots who donated their time and planes – to teens with special needs.

The concept was founded in 1993 by Navy Lt. Richard Owen Amber, a top gun fighter pilot who lost the use of his legs when his landing system failed while returning from his 109th combat mission over Vietnam. He started the program to utilize the various occupational, recreational and educational opportunities through flight and inspire challenged young people to soar above their perceived limitations.

“I was sitting up front with the pilot,” added Karla Rosales, 16, of Chicago, who added that the only other time she had been on a plane was when she came to this country from El Salvador. “I really liked to see how the plane worked,” Rosales added. “I got to see how the pilot flies the plane, and I watched him push all the buttons. He let me turn off the engines.”

The students who made the trip were all mildly to moderately impaired. They attend the vocational high school to help prepare them for a job in the community. In between flights students saw displays that included models of the most popular airplanes from the last 100 years, they tried their hand on a desktop flight simulator, and they even saw a real NASA space suit, worn by Capt. Jim Lovell and other Apollo 13 astronauts during practice missions.

“We try to expose them to as many new experiences as possible,” said teacher Holly Kroger. “Every new experience helps them grow.”

Students went up with the pilots in pairs or individually for 20-minute spins. They wore headsets that allowed them to listen to the pilots as they received their instructions from the control tower.

“I never had this when I was a kid, I just used to hang around the airports and hope one of the pilots would take me for a ride,” said Mario Ponton of Chicago, who flies out of the Schaumburg Regional Airport. “It just gives me such joy to see the smiles when these kids get off the plane.” “I’ve had a great time in aviation all my life,” added pilot Russell Shavitz of Arlington Heights, who started in model airplanes before flying the real things. “I just hope these kids get bit by the bug.” In all, five pilots participated, bringing their Cessnas, Pipers and Beechcraft Bonanzas with them. Those students that flew with pilot Ken Rapier of Chicago learned about more than aviation, they learned about the Tuskegee Airmen.

Rapier has painted his Piper Warrior to resemble one of the Tuskegee Airmen’s fighter planes, complete with their distinctive logos painted on the nose and back fuselage, and with the name Tuskegee Airmen and Young Eagles printed on the wings.

“We want to pass on the legacy to the younger generation,” Rapier said. “Not just about aviation, but inspire them to do great things.”

Tammera Holmes

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


Young Eagles Program Success Story of Tammera L. Holmes

Tammera Holmes was introduced to the world of aviation when she was 16 years old. This happened during her participation in the Young Eagles Program. Sponsored by the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.the Young Eagles Program offers introductory airplane flights to children ages 7-17. This experience changed her life. Doing anything at 8 am on a Saturday morning was the last priority of this teenager, but a determined Uncle convinced her that a free plane ride would be well worth it. That day, Tammera found her dream.

After arriving at Chicago Meigs Field, a volunteer pilot took her up on her introductory flight. While in the air, he offered her an opportunity to fly the plane and she accepted. As they came down from what would become a life-changing experience, she decided that this thing called aviation was for her.

Tammera graduated from Proviso East High School (Maywood, IL) and enrolled at Southern Illinois University (SIU, Carbondale, IL) to major in Aviation Flight and Spanish. After only 4 weeks of flight training, she was one of the first in her class of over 200 students to solo, but with mounting social challenges as well as financial costs, associated with the Flight Program, Tammera decided to transfer to another program, Aviation Management. This has proved to be one of the best decisions she has ever made.  She graduated from SIU having completed both the Spanish and Aviation Management Programs in only four and a half years. She assumed employment with the oldest and largest privately owned aviation consulting firm, Landrum & Brown where she continues to be successful. Her career as an Airport Planner has afforded her more versatility and opportunity in the Aviation Industry than she could have ever imagined. She loves her job, most of all because it keeps her intertwined in a world, that she was so casually introduced to one Saturday morning, nearly 10 years ago. She thanks the Tuskegee Airmen, Chicago “DODO” chapter for giving her the dream, one she would probably never have had without them.

Audie Posadas

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Audie Posadas – Future Pilot

My passion for flying started when I was just a little boy. My father and mother both worked at the airport in The Philippines full time. So when they would take me to work with them, I would be always around airplanes. My father worked for the air traffic control, Fed Ex, and flight dispatcher. My mother worked for Continental Airlines as a load planner specialist. And my father himself is a private pilot.

So once in a while he would take me flying with him with his friends. My first flying experience was when my father was about to take his solo and his instructor took me around once for a flight pattern. And that made up my mind that I wanted to this! I wanted to be a pilot And ever since my father would take me with him in his business trips around the country, and I had a lot of fun just going with him.

And this past summer. I attended the EAA Advanced Air Academy II sponsored by the Tuskegee Airmen for 10 days. And during those 10 days had tons of fun and also learned a lot of things that has got to do with airplanes. Theirs lodge was great, the staff was friendly, and the food is awesome. I made friends from all over the country. Also in EAA I learned the
basic structures of airplanes; How they are built, their materials, ect. They’ve taught us how to build, hands on, wing ribs, how to weld metals together, make fiber glass, a spark plug holder, and fabrics. For the classroom, I learned basic fundamentals of flight, history of flight, current events, trouble shooting, an we watched a lot of movies!

So my whole dream is to be a professional pilot for a major airline and traveling around the world! And the best thing about that is. I will enjoy what I will be doing for the rest of my life!

First Lieutenant Kenyatta H. Ruffin

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A Continuing Young Eagles Success Story – From Young Eagle to Fighter Pilot

(Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico June 13, 2006 – Source: EAA Young Eagles News)

“I am currently an active duty Air Force officer and fighter pilot stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., flying the F-16.”

First Lieutenant Kenyatta H. Ruffin is a pilot in the 523rd Fighter Squadron, Crusaders. The Crusaders fly the Block 30 F-16C+ and specialize in both air-to-air and precision air-to-ground employment.

“The demands of my job are high, but I love every opportunity to encourage and mentor younger people regarding aviation. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for volunteers such as those in the EAA

Young Eagles that devote their time and effort to teach others about aviation.” On Sept. 27, 1998, Lt. Ruffin received his Young Eagles flight while part of the Civil Air Patrol.

“Since I was a young child I have been interested in aviation. It began at the age of 5 after the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. At that time, I started to focus most of my efforts on becoming an astronaut. I read every book I could find on space exploration, attended Space Camp, and decided that my career path would involve being an Air Force fighter pilot.

In the summer of 1995, at the age of 14, I experienced my first major step towards accomplishing my goals by soloing a glider in the Gary Flight Academy (GFA). For the next three years, GFA would continue to play a major part in my development as I earned my private pilot license in both single engine airplanes and gliders through their program. (The GFA was supported in large part by the Organization of Black Airline Pilot and the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.).”

Excelling in math and science, Lt. Ruffin attended the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy where he became involved in the Civil Air Patrol, student government, and other activities. He received his private pilot’s license at the age of 16 and his Certified Flight Instructor’s license (glider) at 18.

“July 1, 1999 was a day that changed my life forever as I embarked on my military career. I soon learned that the Academy is not about me at  all and altered my goals by focusing on serving my country with excellence and honor. I made it my passion to develop into a leader with character, motivation, and competence.” Lt. Ruffin graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering with a minor in Military Strategic Studies.

He was also vice president for his class, the Class of 2003.

As a cadet, Lt. Ruffin was the cadet commander of the 94th Flight Trainin Squadron. He also advised the active duty officers on the operation of the squadron’s 20 gliders, “soar-for-all”, instructor upgrade, and advanced programs. He was qualified as a basic acrobatic, spin and standards/evaluation instructor pilot and has his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and commercial certificates.

“Although the possibility exists to be a career officer and astronaut, I have shifted my focus to officership and tactical aviation. I have wanted to fly the Viper (the unofficial, but more popular designation) since junior high and am simply overjoyed that this goal has come true.”

Lt. Ruffin currently has over 1200 total hours logged in civilian and military aircraft.

“I believe that what I am doing now (tactical aviation) is the pinnacle of airmanship and Young Eagles was the start to where I am.”With future goals set on being a superior officer and tactically proficient fighter pilot, Lt. Ruffin has a lot to look forward to.

Young Eagles Rally Reports – 2010

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

January 9, 2010 – Gary-Chicago International Airport.

A Typical Young Eagles Rally Cancelled

Due to the Saturday forecast calling for temperatures in the teens, the Young Eagles rally for Saturday, January 9, 2010 will be canceled. Total 3 day snow accumulation by Saturday is 12 to 15 inches. Blustery & Frigid. High 14 to 18 but with wind chills, by noon the temp could be below zero.

The bitter cold will present a hardship on youngsters walking outside from the terminal building to the aircraft parking area. The next Young Eagles rally will be on Saturday, February 13, 2010. Until then, Happy Flyin’!

Ken Rapier, Chief Pilot

Tuskegee Airmen Young Eagles Program

April 10, 2010 – Lewis University Aviation Career Fair

A Collaboration with CAPS and Lewis Univ.

Saturday, April 10, 2010 blessed the Tuskegee Airmen Young Eagles Volunteer Team with the first flyable second Saturday of the month this year. The sky was clear, the temperature was 70 degrees and the wind was warm and brisk from the south, blowing in the warm air.

There were 30 youngsters from the Chicago Police Department CAPS program and 14 youngsters from the Lewis University Aviation Career Fair, for a total of 44 youngsters getting Young Eagles flight at the Lewis University Airport from pilots Bob Brutvan, Cortez Carter, Vic Croswell, Steve Hammond, Ken Rapier, Keith Renfroe, Scott Taylor and Steve Whitney assisted by volunteers Mike Askew, Bev Dunjill, Jean Dunjill, Betty Guice, Charles Guice, Duane Hayden, Clarence Holland, Tammy Holmes, Hilton Joseph, Emmit Hoosman, Melvin Knazze, Guiselle Lewis, Bob Martin, Karon Motley (Thompson), Bob Mullins, Carl Robinson, Rob Strickland, Welton Taylor, Barb Werner and Paul Wilson.

All of the youngsters and parents were treated to a lunch of turkey, ham or roast beef sandwiches with chips and sodas provided by Lewis University. The Young Eagles Volunteer team once again accomplished an amazing feat in picking up the entire Young Eagles operation and moving it to Lewis University for the special rally held in conjunction with the Aviation Career Fair and the CAPS program. After the rally, the Young Eagles Volunteer Team was treated to a delicious luncheon of lasagne, tossed salad and garlic bread, compliments of Lewis University. Spring is finally here and a good time was had by all.

We hope you will plan to join us for the Tuskegee Airmen Spring Fling Scholarship Fundraiser Luncheon on April 24th to meet the Airmen and the Chicago “DODO” Chapter Educational Assistance Program scholarship winners. Happy Flyin’!

Ken Rapier, Chief Pilot

Tuskegee Airmen Young Eagles Program

August 7, 2010 – Victor Croswell & Steve Hammond

Reach Young Eagles Milestones

On Saturday, August 7, 2010, the Tuskegee Airmen EAA Young Eagles Team finally got some good flying weather on our scheduled Young Eagles rally day for the first time this year. We were blessed with sunny skies, good visibility and gentle breezes. 55 Young Eagles, 3 of which arrived on the Chicago bus, flew with pilots Butch Bejna, Victor Croswell, Steve Hammond, Steve MacCabe and Ken Rapier with the assistance of volunteers Victor Carter, Don Clay, Evie Clay, Zeb Clay, Brianna Dracousis, Bev Dunjill, Betty Guice, Charles Guice, Cecelia Holland, Clarence Holland, Tammera Holmes, Rufus Hunt, Julius Jackson, Will Johnson, Hilton Joseph, Moses Jones, Melvin Knazze, Wendell Levister, Carol MacCabe, Bob Martin, Karon Motley, Bob Mullins, Keith Renfroe, Marvin Robinson, Rob Strickland, Welton Taylor, Barb Werner, Milt Williams, Morris Williams and Paul Wilson. A pair of milestones were reached: Victor Croswell flew his 100th Young Eagle and Steve Hammond flew his 500th Young Eagle. After the rally, pilots and volunteers were treated to a delicious luncheon of pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw and cake, compliments of Nicole Zaconne’s Catering with beverages and chips provided by Barb Werner and food service coordinated by Karon Motley and Rob Strickland. It was the entire team’s treat to have our first successful 2010 Young Eagles rally. A good time was had by all. If you missed it, all I can say is: you should have been there. Happy Flyin’!

Ken Rapier, Chief Pilot

Tuskegee Airmen Young Eagles Program

The Art of J. Withers

June 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


Hi All, more about

This is Jacqueline Withers, case

A great thing happened this year while working on mural number 13 with eighteen (18) students at the Aurora Tech Academy, order through the arts and history program, keeping this legacy (of the Tuskegee Airmen) alive. First I would like to thank my chapter (Detroit) for all their support in featuring these children and their hard work in The Hawk’s Cry Newsletter.

I have 15 students that want to be pilots. This year the mural was featured on 150 T- Shirts that were worn by participants of the 2nd Annual Super Spelling Bee 2010, honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. The students that worked on the mural are second (2nd) through sixth (6th) grade. The little ones did not want to be left out. The Spelling Bee is huge here (in Denver) and I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that children would be wearing a piece of the mural that represents the Tuskegee Airmen.

This was also shown at the Fox Theater (Denver), Aurora Tech Academy, Eastwind, Faith Christian, Harrison Street, Faith Prep Learning, Little Debbie’s Dreams and Tubman Hilliard Global Academy. I would like to thank Michael Glover for all of his hard work as Photographer and the Denver Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Lt.Col Vorry Moon and Col John Smith. Even though times are hard it does not stop me from doing everything that I can to keep this history, past and present, alive through the youths. The Take Flight project is surely taking flight. I thank God for the gift and for being a part of a great chapter.

Thank you so much Detroit Chapter, I have been quite busy with school and trying to keep these children positive. We are also getting ready to do a short educational film on aviation. These children have at least 20 hours in it already. I will send you a copy of the video. It will be honoring the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. My goal is to submit this to some film festivals. There will be four parts to it. I will mail the chapter a t- shirt so it can be a part of our history and the Airmen their can sign it and may be put it in the museum. I will have the children sign it as well.

Your Artist
Jacqueline Withers



June 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Vince Saunders

Bessie Coleman Collage As we gathered under a tent at Chicago’s Lincoln Cemetery to pay tribute to legendary pilots Bessie Coleman, more about Willa B. Brown and Janet Harmon, find the blue sky was slightly overcast with high scattered clouds that promised a small chance of afternoon rain.  Organized by chapter pilot Rufus Hunt; on Saturday, May 1st, the Chicago Chapter of TAI conducted its 31st Annual Salute to these pioneering female aviators.  Fortunately, the late rain limited to a sprinkle, only dampened the grass rather than our mood.  It turned out to be a good day and our spirits were brighter than the sky.

The program was initiated by Civil Air Patrol Cadets from Thornwood High School. Commanded by recent graduate, 1st Lt. Harding who marched the cadets ¼ mile from Lincoln’s administration building to the program site, posted the colors, then withdrew to join the other program attendees under the tent.  The Invocation was delivered by Chapter Member Alcus Cromartie followed by an excellent program introduction from our Mistress of Ceremonies, Ms. Aida Abraha.  Ms. Abraha also provided recognition of our OTAs in attendance, Mr. Bev Dunjill and Milton Williams.  The program was also attended by descendants of Georgia Coleman (Dean Stallworth, Jr., et al), Bessie Coleman’s youngest sister.1921 Article in the Chicago Defender

We were then given a gracious welcome by Ms. Diane Nowak, General Manager of Lincoln Cemetery, representing our organizational partner and host.  Ms. Nowak discussed essays on Bessie Coleman and other pioneering aviators prepared by students

from the Kipling elementary school.  Their essays focused on why the program is so important to the youth of our community in that it helps ensure that the legacy of these aviatrix is never lost.  Ms. Nowak reminded us that both Bessie and Willa Brown are interred at Lincoln and noted that a memorial to Janet Harmon, who is buried in Arizona; will be provided for next year’s ceremony.

Lewis Addison representing the Bessis Coleman Branch of the Chicago Public Library system; read a resolution from Congressman Danny K. Davis, who noted the legacy of these famous aviators and their pioneering contributions to the field of aviation.  Tributes were then provided by Ms. Stacy Letton on the legacy of Willa Brown and Ms. Sandra Campbell, on the legacy of Bessie Coleman.

Ms. Letton presented to us how through the combined efforts of Willa Beatrice Brown and  Cornelius R. Coffey, they contributed to the pre-WWII training of approximately 200 of the some 2000 aviation students who went on to become Tuskegee Airmen pilots.  Ms. Letton also discussed how Chicago became the nucleus of Black Aviation during the 1920s and 30s.

Influenced by the aviatrix Bessie Coleman, Willa Brown started taking flying lessons in 1934 and in 1937 she became the first African-American woman to get a commercial pilot’s license. After relocating to Chicago from Gary, IN, she became a member of the Challenger Aviation Club, the Air Pilot’s Association, and the Chicago Girls Flight Club.  Also in 1937 she purchased her own airplane and co-founded the National Airmen’s Association of America (NAAA) with her husband, Cornelius Coffey. The Association’s goal was to promote African-American aviation.

Ms. Letton also told us that Willa was instrumental in establishing the Coffey School of Aeronautics. And in doing so, she fulfilled Bessie Coleman’s long standing dream of a black owned private flight  school. As the president of the Chicago branch of the NAAA, Willa led a successful fight to integrate African Americans into the U.S. Army Corps.

Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, Willa became the first African American officer in the Civil Air Patrol. She was a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Women’s Advisory Board and became the first African American woman to earn a commercial pilot’s license. Willa added still another first to her prestigious career when in 1946 she became the first African American woman to run for Congress.

In 1941, she became a training coordinator for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and a teacher in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.  At the outset of WWII, Ms. Brown was the first black woman to hold a commission in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol.

The following year, she became the first African-American member of the Civil Air Patrol. She also promoted aviation on the radio and taught it in high schools. In 1972, Brown became a member of the Women’s Advisory Committee on Aviation in the Federal Aviation Agency.

Bessie Coleman_1921 French Pilot's License

Bessie Coleman 1921 French Pilot’s License

Sandra Campbell, who is a member of the Heart of America chapter of TAI, provided a superb presentation which she calls, “Follow Your Dreams”, based on the life of Queen Bess.  The audience was enraptured by her historical depiction of the life of the legendary aviatrix. The metaphors she used, such as her passion for “purple jelly beans”, provided good lessons on life skills, so important for the many young people in attendance.  “Success” she told them, “develops when preparation meets opportunity.”  Speaking as Bessie, she recalled how with help from Robert Abbott Sengstake who encouraged her to go to night school to learn how to speak French, told her “you can do it Bess.”  And so with financial support from Sengstake and the money she earned as a hairdresser in 1920 Chicago, she traveled to France where in 1921, she became the first African American woman to earn her pilot’s license.Relying also on the wisdom   learned from her Native American father who told her, “don’t take no for an answer”; because “remember Bess, every no you encounter only brings you closer to a yes”.  Her father, discouraged by racism in early twentieth century Texas, left the family when Bessie was still a youth to find a better home for them among his own people.  He told them that Jim Crow didn’t live in Indian Territory; his last words to young Bessie were, “follow your dreams.”

Ms. Campbell has been telling the “Bessie Coleman Story” around the country since 1995.  She says that she is in the Aviatrix Willa Brown in flight suit_1938process of training and mentoring her successor and looking forward to retiring from

her public speaking career in the near future. If you haven’t seen one of her presentations, look for a video clip of “follow your dreams” on the chapter website (, by the end of June.

Following the presentation by Ms. Campbell, pilots from the Chicago and Detroit Chapters of Tuskegee Airmen, made several in-formation flyovers of the event.  At about 500 feet and buffeted by a 20 knot wind, a flower drop over the gravesite of Bessie Coleman was made by Chicago pilot Rufus Hunt.  The two 3-ship formation included Chief Pilot Ken Rapier flying a Piper Cherokee, Victor Croswell also flying a Piper Cherokee, Marvin Williams flying a Piper Warrior, Juan Haygood (Detroit), flying a Gruman Tiger and Robert Bejna and Rufus Hunt, both flying Cessna 150s.

The cost of the event was offset in part, thanks to the efforts of chapter members Sheila Chears-Webber, Sonjia Hall and Patricia Allen, who managed our merchandise sales operation.


June 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


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Script by Dagon Design

Extensive research investigations by several independent investigators working collaboratively to review the records of the 332nd FG and all other fighter groups of the 15th AF, prescription
15th AF Bomber Wings and Groups, and Missing Air Crew (MAC) Reports at the Air Force Historical Agency, the Air Force History Agency, and the National Archives, has revealed that some bombers were indeed lost to enemy aircraft while being escorted by the 332nd FG during the period 1 June 1944 to the end of the war.  This initial research, completed between 2005-2010, is still ongoing; however the position of the national organization reflects these latest findings.  It should be acknowledged therefore, that while the 332nd had an outstanding combat record, the national organization of Tuskegee Airmen asks that all of its members discontinue making any statement that implies that Tuskegee Airmen units “never lost a bomber to enemy aircraft.”  It is further recommended that for good Public Relations, we attempt to correct others who, having been misinformed, make that statement in error.

Researchers:  Dr. William F. Holton, National Historian TAI; the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, AL; and the Harry A. Sheppard Research Team.

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