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Tuskegee Airmen Will Take the Gold


UC Riverside Celebrates the Awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen

Feb. 10 event honors the first African American pilots to be trained for World War II

(February 2, 2007)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)-- The University of California, Riverside Libraries and the SCMEB Foundation will celebrate the unanimous decision of the 109th United States Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen in a special event starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10 at the UCR Extension Center, 1200 University Ave.

The afternoon celebration, held during Black History Month, will include introductions of the original Tuskegee Airmen; a panel discussion on the historical meaning of the Congressional Gold Medal, moderated by Associate Professor Ralph L. Crowder; and a film presentation featuring excerpts of Tuskegee Airmen interviews from the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American pilots to be trained for combat during World War II. Known as "the Red Tail Angels" by other flyers, they flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, won more than 850 medals. German pilots called them "Schwarze Vogelmenschen" or Black Birdmen. In March 2006, legislation conferring the Congressional Gold Medal on the Tuskegee Airmen in recognition of their heroism was signed into law. The Medal will be awarded to the airmen in Washington, D.C. later this year.

"This is the culmination of a huge effort by many people to grant the Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen that they have earned and so well deserve," said Ruth M. Jackson, University Librarian at UCR. "We are excited to have original Tuskegee Airmen from all over the country attending the celebration."

In attendance will be such Tuskegee Airmen as Judge Robert Decatur, Lt. (Ret.) Mitchell Higginbotham, Lt. (Ret.) Roger Terry, Col. (Ret.) Ted Lumpkin, and Edith Roberts, spouse of the late Maj. George S. Roberts.

The original Tuskegee Airmen include members from the first aviation cadet class that began in July 1941 at the Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) and Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee, Alabama) and extended through the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Composite Group in 1948. Some 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee Airfield courses.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award that may be bestowed by the U.S. Legislature, and recognizes outstanding service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. The U.S. Mint creates each Congressional Gold Medal to specifically commemorate the person and achievement. Past recipients include George Washington, Ulysses S.Grant, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Irving Berlin, Robert Frost, Bob Hope, and Robert Kennedy.

A year ago UC Riverside Libraries dedicated the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive. For the past year, UCR Libraries has been digitizing and indexing the archives of the Airmen to make them more easily accessible to scholars, researchers, the K-12 community, and the public at large. Archive items include papers, memorabilia, photos, and other key research. The establishment of the Archive is fully endorsed by the national board of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and by the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen organization. The Airmen Archive will ultimately form the cornerstone for a much large initiative at UCR to serve as an archive of African American history and culture in the Western States.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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