Sunday, September 16, 2001

Airmen convey pride

Youths hear of legendary war heroes

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This is living history, the students from Middletown were told Saturday morning.

        “This is part of your heritage,” said Willie Norton, president of the Greater Cincinnati chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, although not an original airman himself. “You need to be more interested in your past.”

[photo] Men who survived World War II and the Jim Crow attitudes of the pre-civil rights era, Leslie Edwards (left) and Donald Doram provided a history lesson Saturday.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Four men in blue blazers — Curtis Hubbard Sr., Leslie Edwards, Donald Doram, Godfrey Miller — took the stage at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center downtown, all four World War II veterans of the squadron of African-American pilots and crew who trained in Tuskegee, Ala., and whose story of perseverance grew into legend.

        One by one they talked to the 50 or so junior high and high school students from Middletown — most of them black — about the value of pursuing an education, learning about heritage and realizing dreams.

        The students were participating in the last day of the three-day Education Summit 2001, sponsored by the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati.

        Mr. Hubbard, who lives in College Hill, told them he was drafted in 1943, trained at Tuskegee, was discharged in 1946, re-enlisted in 1950 and finally retired from the Air Force in 1970.

        “Then I went back and got my undergraduate degree,” Mr. Hubbard said. “A partial interruption of your plan doesn't mean you have to abandon your plans altogether. You have to have a goal. My goal was a college education.”

        Mr. Edwards, of Springfield Township, told them about an air base outside of Seymour, Ind., where Tuskegee Airmen were arrested in 1945 when they entered a whites-only officers' club.

        “You have some idea about rioting, about people rebelling,” Mr. Edwards said. “The Tuskegee Airmen rebelled. But they didn't throw rocks. They didn't call anyone names. They were arrested, but they used their intelligence in dealing with Jim Crow. It set a standard. You don't have to get ugly. You can use your intelligence.”

        Segregation soon ended in the military.

        “They seemed pretty tough and pretty proud about what they did,” said Vincent Smith, 13, an eighth-grader at Vail Middle School.

        Jason Hightower, 14, a freshman at Middletown High School, was equally impressed. “I never heard much about them. So it was very informative about my history. It's something I can take back and share with my classmates.”

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