CLIFTON FORGE — An original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces, will be the featured speaker at the annual Black History Month Celebration at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Moomaw Center at noon on Wednesday, February 20. There is no admission fee and the public is invited to attend.
Ninety-two-year-old Virginia native Chief Master Sergeant Grant S. Williams of Hampton, a two-time Bronze Star recipient, enlisted in the Army in 1942 at Fort Dix, NJ. He was sent to the Tuskegee Army Air Field for basic training, served overseas in Italy during World War II, and enlisted in the reserves the same day he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps in 1945. He was recalled to active duty in 1950. For the next 24 years he served in administrative positions stateside and overseas. Williams received his first Bronze Star for meritorious service in connection with military operations in Italy from 1944-45, and again while serving in Vietnam in 1971-72.
As a documented Original Tuskegee Airman, Williams and others were cited for the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol in March 2007 when President Bush conferred this distinct honor on all of the individuals who participated in the Tuskegee Airmen Program. In September 2010, Williams became the first and only Tuskegee Airman to ever be inducted into the U.S. Air Force “CHIEFS” Room at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
Most of Williams’ talk will focus on his service as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. The term “Tuskegee Airmen” refers to all who were involved in the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. The primary flight training for these service members took place at the Division of Aeronautics of Tuskegee Institute. Air Corps officials built a separate facility at Tuskegee Army Air Field to train the pilots.
The Tuskegee Airmen not only battled enemies during wartime but also fought against racism and segregation. They trained in overcrowded classrooms and airstrips, and suffered from the racist attitude of some military officials. The Tuskegee Airman endured many hardships, but they proved themselves to be world class pilots. The men earned the nickname “Red Tail Angels”, since the bombers considered their escorts “angels” and the propellers and tails of their planes were painted red.
For more information about DSLCC’s Black History Month observation, contact Student Activities at (540) 863-2828.
– Judy Clark, Public Relations and Non-Credit Coordinator, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College