by Jess Clackum
It takes pioneers to force change. Herbert and Mildred would play their part in the years ahead. But in those early days, they didn't see themselves as trailblazers. They were young and in love.
Their rendezvous point: 3,000 feet above a bridge at Lake Martin, 25 miles away from base. He'd fly a repaired AT6 trainer. She'd be in a much slower Piper J-3 Cub.
The two would become known as Tuskegee's "First Couple".
Herbert earned his wings as a Second Lieutenant. He flew 77 missions with the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII and served 27 years in the US Air Force. He earned his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Education from the Tuskegee Institute. Upon his retirement from a distinguished military career, he served Tuskegee Institute in a variety of positions including Associate Dean.
Mildred earned her pilot’s license in 1941, becoming the first black woman in Alabama to do so. To this day, she is counted among the history-making Tuskegee Airmen. While Mildred was denied admission to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) because of her race, she was not deterred from flying. She taught and mentored African-American fighter pilots. Seventy years after she’d earned her license, Mildred was recognized as a member of the WASP and received a medal with the inscription: “The First Women in History to Fly America.”
Herbert and Mildred were happily married for 69 years until Mildred passed away on October 26, 2011. Herbert followed her on November 8, 2012.
We honor their service to our country!