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UCR Celebrates Tuskegee Airmen


UCR Celebrates Tuskegee Airmen

Feb. 21 event will recognize the role of women in the Tuskegee experience.

(February 9, 2009)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The role of women in the Tuskegee experience will be recognized in the 5th annual celebration honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, in the Science Library Rotunda at the University of California, Riverside.

The program also will include the story of Lt. Roger Terry, the Tuskegee Airman associated with the Freeman Field Mutiny, which erupted over race relations among military officers. Terry was court-martialed, reduced in rank and dishonorably discharged as a result of the 1945 incident, but was pardoned in 1995 by President Bill Clinton and his rank reinstated.

The Feb. 21 event, sponsored by the UCR Libraries and the SCMEB Foundation, is free, but reservations are requested. To make a reservation, contact Carole Meyer-Rieth at (951) 827-1244 or carole.meyer-rieth@ucr.edu.

“Not much has been written about the women of Tuskegee,” said University Librarian Ruth Jackson, who was instrumental in launching the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive at UCR. The archive, which celebrates the pilots and others who broke the race barrier for African Americans in military aviation, is the premier, full-life research archive in the United States that is dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen, she said.

Among the speakers are: Edith Roberts, widow of Col. George S. “Spanky” Roberts, who was one of the first African Americans selected for pilot training at Tuskegee Army Airfield; Alma Wilson, widow of Staff Sgt. George Wilson, the non-commissioned officer in charge of instrument training; and Dr. Florence Parrish St. John, widow of Brig. Gen. Noel Parrish, who commanded the airmen at Tuskegee Army Airfield.

Also participating in the event will be Jeff Greason, president and co-founder of XCOR Aerospace, who will announce that the Mojave-based company plans to donate a flight into space to a Tuskegee airman in the first year of commercial operations.

“XCOR’s Legacy Flight Program will provide a limited number of free flights aboard our suborbital vehicle, the Lynx,” Greason said. “The flights honor individuals or organizations that have contributed not only to aviation, but to our nation. We could not think of a more deserving organization than the Tuskegee Airmen, and it will be a privilege to attend this event at UC Riverside to announce the individual who will take the flight.”

The Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive, established in 2004, gathers the personal papers of pilots, mechanics, bombardiers and others associated with the Tuskegee experience from their military service through careers as doctors, lawyers, judges, nurses, teachers, musicians and others.

“We’re interested in individual histories, not only from the Tuskegee years but also their contributions to society and their communities,” said Chuck Wilson, university archivist. “This archive is available for the public to get a better understanding of the Tuskegee experience and the people involved in it.”

The Tuskegee Airmen flew combat missions as bomber escorts in the European theater during World War II with few losses to enemy fighters. A total of 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee airfield courses. They flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft and won more than 850 medals.

The UCR Libraries and the SCMEB Foundation (Smith Family/Concerned Citizens Cultural Foundation for Minority Affairs, Education of Women, and Black History Research) are co-sponsoring the archive and the celebration.

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.

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