(Denver,Colo. Oct. 23, 2006) Students at Denver Children’s Home (DCH) completed a 100 foot self-portrait mural project with local artist, Jacqueline Withers. 20 children worked on the project over the summer in the lower level of the Home.
The mural incorporates images of American’s rich cultural diversity with the students own reflections. The self-portrait mural promotes acceptance and respect for the differences which make our country strong. As Jacqueline worked with the children to create the mural she also taught them about inspiring Americans such as the legendary WWII Tuskegee Airmen. Representatives from the Denver Tuskegee Airmen chapter were present for the mural dedication.
The theme of this mural was America’s First Top Guns. Shedding light on a little known historical fact through her art, Ms. Withers taught the participating students that in
September 1947, the United States Air Force, as a separate service, reactivated the 332nd Fighter Group under the Tactical Air command. Two years later, 8 members of the reactivated 332nd Fighter Group established themselves as the USAF’s First Top Gun Fighter Pilots. These pilots were members of the 332nd Fighter Group Gunnery Team which won “Top 9 Guns” at the 1st annual USAF Fighter (William Tell) Gunnery Meet at Las Vegas Air Force Base, Nev., in May 1949. Through the artistic process the children learned about themselves, their heritage and each other. It is truly an amazing, inspiring work of art.
DTAs & First Top Guns, Lt. Colonel James H. Harvey, Colonel Fitzroy “Buck” Newsum and Colonel John Smith, all of the Denver Chapter, provide their autographs on the Wither’s Mural.
Jacqueline is an artist in action whose creative style has earned her numerous
awards and recognition. Her mural projects throughout Denver include the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and the Swansea Elementary School. Jacqueline is a member of the Detroit Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and a student at the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver.
BACKGROUND: Denver Children’s Home is the oldest nonprofit in Colorado. Throughout its 130-year history of service to the community it has adapted to meet the needs of the children and families who have turned to it for help. The mission is to provide a therapeutic, safe place for emotionally distressed children, adolescents and their families to heal and grow. The goal is to provide children with the greatest financial and emotional needs high quality mental health care in a safe and stable environment.
On February 23, 2006, Remembered for their valor and bravery, 72 of the nation’s first African-American military aviators were recognized during the Sixth Annual Tuskegee Airmen Convocation at Tuskegee University.
The convocation, which was held at 11 a.m., in the General Daniel Chappie James Center for Aerospace Science and Health Education, recognized the Tuskegee Airmens exemplary combat performance during World War II and their important contribution to Tuskegee’s distinctive educational mission.
University President Benjamin F. Payton noted that the African-American pilots began flight training at the University’s Moton Field in 1941 and gained international fame during World War II. “The Airmen’s achievement is an integral part of Tuskegee University’s past and present legacy of academic excellence and public service,” Dr. Payton said.
It was under the leadership of Tuskegee President Frederick D. Patterson, that the school was awarded the U.S. Army Air Corp’s contract to host, help and train America’s first African American fighter pilots. Tuskegee won that contract in open competition with other universities. “Tuskegee University submitted a proposal in response to the Army Air Corp’s request for proposals to train Black pilots. We had already collaborated with leading African American civil rights groups and the Black press to exert pressure on the federal administration to provide the opportunity for Blacks to train as pilots,” Dr. Payton said.
At the time Tuskegee University had already invested in the development of an air field, had a proven civilian pilot training program, and its graduates performed highest on flight aptitude exams. Between 1941 and 1945, nearly 1,000 African-Americans were trained as fighter pilots at Tuskegee . Program participants were graduates of Tuskegee University, as well as graduates of other universities across the nation.
The Tuskegee Airmen had a distinguished record of combat performance, including but not limited to:
“The destruction of 260 enemy aircraft their never having lost a single bomber to enemy fire in more than 200 combat missions as air escorts; an achievement unmatched by any other fighter group, the collective earning of 850 medals Their distinguished combat performance helped persuade then-President Harry S. Truman in 1948 to issue Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the U.S. Military,” Dr. Payton said.
Tuskegee University played an integral role in creating the Tuskegee Airmen legacy, and for that reason, honorary doctorates in public service were bestowed upon these remaining legendary African-American military aviators. “We are conferring these degrees as part of Tuskegee’s 125th celebration because these aviators have contributed mightily to American, African-American and to Tuskegee University’s history,” Dr. Payton said. It should be also be noted that the Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy provides the inspiration for Tuskegee’s current aerospace scienceengineering program, the only historically black college or university program to offer an accredited degree in aerospace science engineering. Since 1983 more Black aerospace science engineers have graduated from the program than any other in this country.
Source Credit – Tuskegee University website at:http://www.tuskegee.edu
Williamson Day”By Kathleen L. Witman
Chapter ambassadors, whose duties include shuttling visitors around the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005 grounds, are among the many volunteers who help make the fly-in run smoothly.
EAAer Rob Strickland has taken his role as ambassador for EAA Chapter 790 one step further.
Last year at EAA AirVenture, Strickland headed to the exhibit hangars to see where he could be of service. He ran into veteran Bob Martin at the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. exhibit and struck up a conversation about the all-black World War II military group. “The more I talked to him,” said Strickland, “the more I realized I needed to do more to help the group preserve its history.”
So he offered Martin a golf cart ride through the Warbirds area. While there he took several pictures of Martin among the aging aircraft. “Seeing that older gentleman turn into a kid again when we visited theWarbirds was an experience I’ll never forget,” said Strickland. When he returned home to Elgin, Illinois, Strickland combined the images on
a CD with information and other images he found on the Internet to illustrate and preserve Martin’s story.
This year at EAA AirVenture, Strickland met Dan Williamson, a former primary flight instructor at Tuskegee during World War II. Meeting the 93-old gentleman prompted Strickland to declare Wednesday, July 27, “Dan Williamson Day.”
Throughout the special day, Strickland escorted Williamson around the AirVenture campus. One of their stops included the Vintage aircraft area. There, they found several Stearmansâ€”the same type of aircraft in which Williamson used to train students. At one point Strickland said, “Dan was explaining to a Stearman owner how to fly his plane.” Once an instructor, always an instructor.
Before finishing the day’s tour, Strickland and Williamson stopped at the Red Tail Project display on the grounds. Also interested in preserving history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the group is rebuilding the P-51C Mustang, Tuskegee Airmen. On display there are several large-scale photographs of Tuskegee Airmen, and surprisingly, Williamson found his youthful self among them. “He signed the picture and was able to identify others in the photo,” said Strickland. “It was great.”
A card-carrying member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.’s Chicago DoDo Chapter, Strickland also flies Young Eagles throughout the year, embracing both EAA’s and the Tuskegee organization’s mission to introduce flight to youngsters.
Beverly L. Dunjill, DoDo chapter president and former Tuskegee fighter pilot, noted that flying Young Eagles is a way for the Tuskegee organization to “preserve the Tuskegee legacy, give back to the community, and fly kids who might not have the opportunity otherwise.”
When asked how EAAers can help preserve the Tuskegee legacy, Dunjill broadly smiled and said, “Fly more kids.” And that’s what Strickland intends to do to keep the bridge connected between older members and today’s youth.