Although they lived at a time when racism was celebrated and enforced by all arms of white-supremacy, the Tuskegee airmen set a record that marveled the world.
They defended a country that didn’t appreciate their sacrifices, and when they got back home, many of them still faced harsh racism.
But the nature of America at that point did not stop them from becoming great. One of the airmen, Stewart Fulbright, after returning from the war, advanced in education and learning, till he became a professor emeritus.
Before the war, in 1937, Stewart Fulbright had graduated from Lincoln High School in Springfield. After graduating, he enlisted in the U.S Army Air Corps, in 1943, and received his training in Tuskegee.
He joined the separate training which was put in place for African-American pilots at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. After his training, he went to war and served with the 477th Bombardment Group.
Stewart, just like other Blacks in the U.S Army was tough, because of the segregation and racism that was institutionalized. The racist white instructors made it even more difficult for a black man to be in the army.
But these conditions did not stop the African-American pilots from making a mark in the war and playing crucial roles in World War II. Black men such as Stewart excelled despite the odds.
He became a trailblazer and piloted a bomber during the war. He was one of the first pilots on the B-25, who was in charge of the crew.
He was alive up till 2007 when the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C.
Although he was an outstanding Airman, his latest achievements would be in the field of education. After his military service, he went ahead to earn a BA in French from Lincoln University.
He also attended the University of Chicago Graduate school in 1947, where he received his MBA.
He didn’t stop there. He went further to enroll in the doctoral program at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. There he received his Ph.D. in Business Administration, in 1953.
Dr. Stewart Fulbright, would go ahead to become the first dean of the North Carolina Central University School of Business. He went head to retire in 1982, after many years serving as a faculty member and administrator.
Dr. Stewart Fulbright, was appointed to the advisory committee for the Commodity Credit Corporation, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was also named professor emeritus by North Carolina Central University.
He passed away at Durham, N.C. on Jan. 1, 2012 aged 92. In that same year, he was inducted into Springfield Public Schools Hall of Fame.
When we tell stories of men like Stewart, we tell them with our shoulders held high. We tell them to our people and children, as a testament to the tenacity of the Black man. Despite what you might put a Black man through, he still has the potential of outdoing the odds and outdoing himself. This is who we are. This is what we are made of. Wherever you go, remember men such as Stewart – tell his stories to your children and to your friends. For in such stories lie our survival and greatness.
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