Yesterday was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and today is the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Our nation’s first African-American President is inviting some special folks to attend his inauguration — the country’s first group of black military airmen in the armed forces, known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Long before Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, the Tuskegee Airmen fought against segregation, even while they battled against Nazis during World War II. They established a distinguished record in the war, flying over 15,000 missions. The success of black aviators in the 1940s helped pave the way for President Truman to eliminate segregation in the armed forces in 1948.
Here in San Diego, we had the honor of having a former Tuskegee Airman serve on the Airport Authority Board. Robert (Bob) Maxwell served on the Board from 2004 to 2006. He graduated from the Tuskegee Airmen Class of 1945 and is the immediate past president of the local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, shown above. When Mr. Maxwell returned to San Diego with his medal, the Airport Authority Board commended him at its April 2007 meeting.
I had the privilege of congratulating Mr. Maxwell that day. I will never forget holding his medal and reflecting on the overwhelming respect I have for people like him who serve our country so bravely.
One of our largest conference rooms at the Airport Authority is called the Tuskegee Airmen Conference Room. In the summer of 2007, the surviving local Tuskegee Airmen were invited to a rededication of the room, shown here, following their receipt of the Congressional Gold Medal.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (yesterday), Inauguration Day today and African American History Month just around the corner in February, it’s fitting that we think about the accomplishments of these heros who helped shape our great nation and the freedoms we enjoy.
With my small voice, I offer a big THANK YOU.