This year marks the 75th anniversary of the 1941 U.S. Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron.
It also happens to be the year World War II veteran Dr. Roscoe C. Brown passed away at the age of 94 inside a Bronx hospital after breaking his hip in a recent fall.
Brown flew 68 combat missions for the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in U.S. history. The Tuskegee Airmen were composed of both men and women who served as a civilian support staff for the Tuskegee Experience or enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
During this time, there were less than 4,000 African Americans serving in the military and 12 African American officers. By 1945, there were more than 1.2 million African Americans serving.
Prior to the Tuskegee Airmen, Jim Crow laws prevented the existence of African American pilots. Their accomplishments provided the military with the foundation it needed in 1948 to become officially desegregated.
Brown was more than a veteran. He was a nine-time New York City marathon runner, held a Ph.D. in education, served as president of Bronx Community College for 17 years, a professor and director at City University of New York (CUNY) and hosted a public affairs show by the name of “African American Legends” on CUNY TV.
“My message to young people is to keep on working,” Brown once said during an NBC New York interview.
“You’ve got to be better, you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve gotta believe. And if you believe, you can overcome, you can overcome. That’s the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.”
He, along with many other original documented airmen, will be honored at the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (TAI) three day 45th annual convention. The convention will take place Thursday, July 14 through Saturday July 16 at the Westin hotel in Indianapolis.
The event is open to anyone who is passionate about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“To help celebrate this milestone we have set a goal to raise $75 Million over ten years for the Tuskegee Airmen Youth Aerospace and STEM Academy as a perpetual memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen,” said the organization. “The Tuskegee Airmen Youth Aerospace and STEM Academy has the goal to simulate the efforts made beginning in 1941 that resulted in over 16,000 individuals being part of the Tuskegee Experience which proved that blacks could take on any and all aspects related to the field of aviation.”
The first day of the convention, is Diversity/ Military Day. There will be a Lonely Eagle Ceremony at 8 am followed by an opportunity to visit the exhibit hall, military luncheon and an autograph session.
Friday is Heritage Day. Vendor and exhibit booths open at 9 am. The Heritage Luncheon, Spouses Tea, Tuskegee Airmen Foundation Reception follow. Closing the evening will be a film screening of Mike Rott’s award-winning documentary “Luft Gangster” at 7 pm. The film will showcase LT. Colonel (Ret.) Alexander Jefferson the documented original Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilot and Holocaust eyewitnesses.
The three day celebration will end with a Youth Day luncheon and a Grand Gala.