Willie Rogers, Last Surviving Member Of Tuskegee Airmen, Dies At 101

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(Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times)

(Photo Credit: TuskegeeAirmen.org)

(Photo Credit: TuskegeeAirmen.org)

The last living member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Willie Rogers died Friday. Rogers passed away in his longtime home of St. Petersburg, Florida after complications resulting from a stroke, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

The 101-year-old was a member of the first all-black aviation squadron and was drafted in 1942. He worked in logistics and administration, but family members revealed they didn’t know until recent years that he was part of the squadron.

If you remember history, Tuskegee University was established in 1881 as a school for former slaves to pursue higher education after the Civil War. It was the brainchild of Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a former slaveholder. A year later, in 1882, the great Booker T. Washington became president of the school and expanded the University by buying the grounds of a former plantation near by. The school was located in Tuskegee, Alabama, which was part of Macon County. As stated by Tuskegee.edu, this region was often referred to as the “Black Belt” because of “its rich soil and vast number of black sharecroppers who were the economic backbone of the region.”

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Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Tuskegee Airmen are the men and women who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experience”, 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.