By Michael Drapa
Wikimedia Commons photo
Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. An Army Air Corps program began as an “experiment” to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The term “Tuskegee Airmen” was later used to describe the pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and support staff who most notably formed the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter and 477th Bombardment groups, which helped fly hundreds of missions beginning in June 1943 through the end of World War II.
A look at some of the Airmen who attended the University of Chicago, either before or after the war:
Charles E. Anderson, Cert., Meterology, '43
War-time weather officer later earned a PhD at MIT — becoming the first African American to earn a doctorate in meteorology. Scholar conducted research on severe storms and forecasting tornadoes.
Benjamin F. Bullock Jr., Cert., Meteorology, '42
Meteorologist trained at UChicago after earning bachelor's at Morehouse College. After war, graduated from Case Western Reserve University, becoming a dentist and esteemed civic leader in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Paul F. Byrd, SB’38, SM’41
War-time meteorologist became a distinguished applied mathematician, serving as a research assistant for NASA and on the faculties of Fisk and San Jose State universities. Writer also authored math books published internationally.
Benjamin O. Davis, X’33
Commander of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II later became the first African American general in the Air Force. Earned Flying Cross and Silver Star.
Stewart Fulbright, MBA’47
After receiving MBA at UChicago, earned doctoral degree at Ohio State. Became a college professor and first dean of the business school at N.C. Central University.
Milton Hopkins, X’41
Trained as a weather officer at UChicago, later served in Italy and Germany. Retired as Air Force lieutenant colonel, had a junior meteorology program named in his honor.
Oscar D. Hutton, AM’39
Earned master’s in economics, wrote thesis, titled "The Negro Worker and the Labor Unions in Chicago.” Awarded Purple Heart after being killed in 1944 bombing raid over Germany.
Clarence C. Jamison, AA'39, X'41
One-time medical bacteriology student flew as fighter pilot over North Africa and Italy. Also served in Korean War and later became flight instructor. Subject of 2006 biography, Memories from Tuskegee. (Photo courtesy of William R. Thompson Collection, Chanute Air Museum)
Elmer D. Jones Jr., MBA'56
Technical officer served in African and European campaigns during World War II. Later earned two master’s degrees and enjoyed career in Air Force, retiring as colonel. (Photo courtesy of William R. Thompson Collection, Chanute Air Museum)
John W. Rogers Sr., JD’48
One of the original Tuskegee Airmen, dive-bomber graduated from UChicago’s Law School and later became a Cook County Juvenile Court judge.
Quentin P. Smith, AM’46
Flight instructor in Tuskegee became bomber pilot in war. Earned master’s in English and was educator in Gary, Ind. after war.
James Wiley, MBA’54
One of the 24 original members of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, was in the first group of U.S. fliers to land in North Africa. Later worked as Air Force representative to Boeing.
Sherman W. White Jr., X’41
One of the first Airmen casualties of the war, was awarded Purple Heart after his plane was lost over Sicily in 1943.
Note: These are the known UChicago-Tuskegee alumni; if you know of an Airman with UChicago ties, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published on April 9, 2012.