Article by Antionette Blake

On January 20, 2012, George Lucas released the movie Red Tails, a movie that featured a crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard.

During World War II, the Civil Aeronautics Authority selected 13 black cadets to become part of an experimental program at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The program aims at training “colored personnel” to become fighter pilots for the Army. However, discrimination, lack of institutional support and the racist belief that these men lacked the intelligence and aptitude for the job dog their every step. Despite this, the Tuskegee Airmen, as they become known, more than prove their worth.

I was recently talking to a family friend who told me the story about her cousin, Major Lemuel Rodney Custis, a Tuskegee Airman, so I decided to learn more about him.

Red Tails Tuskegee Airman - Veteran's Outreach MinistriesMajor Lemuel Rodney Custis, was an African American Military Pioneer. He was the last surviving member of the first class of the Famed Tuskegee Airmen headed by General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Having received a BS Degree from Howard University in 1938, he became Hartford’s first African American police officer in 1939.

In 1995, he was a consultant for the HBO movie, “The Tuskegee Airmen” and served on the Board of Directors at the New England Air Museum in Washington D.C. His life achievements were recognized by Central Connecticut State University with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities Degree in 2001.

Many of the men who served are no longer with us which is why any time there is an opportunity to acknowledge and thank a Tuskegee Airman for their service it is a prideful moment for all Americans.

Recently at the Superbowl in Miami, Col. Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman during World War II, participated in the coin toss before the NFL Super Bowl 54 game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Over the course of his 30-year military career, McGee flew 409 fighter combat missions, more than any other U.S. serviceman. McGee flew 136 combat missions in World War II, as part of the Tuskegee Airmen, the only African-American pilot squadron in the war.

Super Bowl coin flip honor for 100-year-old Tuskegee Airman from Bethesda Col. Charles McGee recently celebrated his 100th birthday in December and having a lifetime of service to his country, McGee downplayed his contributions: “We human beings are just one small aspect in a mighty grand world.”

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