Surviving Tuskegee Airmen Meet In St. Louis For 42nd Annual Convention | St. Louis Public Radio

Surviving Tuskegee Airmen Meet In St. Louis For 42nd Annual Convention

Aug 2, 2013

This 1944 photo shows pilots of a U.S. Army Air Forces fighter squadron, credited with shooting down 8 of the 28 German planes destroyed in dog-fights over the new Allied beachheads south of Rome talking over the day's exploits at a U.S. base in the Mediterranean theater. The Tuskegee Airmen became known for flying during World War II and becoming the United States' first African American military pilots.
Credit National Archives

Several original Tuskegee Airmen are in St. Louis for the 42nd annual Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated convention being held through Saturday. The pilots and ground crew were known for being trained in Tuskegee, Ala. and flying during World War II. 

Clara White is the president of the Hugh J. White chapter in St. Louis. The chapter is named after her husband, who flew during World War II.
Credit Erin WIlliams

As president of the St. Louis-based Hugh J. White chapter, Clara White has been dedicated for several years to preserving the legacy of her husband, who flew during the war, as well as other airmen and flight personnel.

“It’s a dying institution so we have to start now letting the people know that even after they’re gone we’re going to have to say they did exist," White said. "But they’re gone now. They’re all in their nineties, so we have to keep that legacy going.”

Initially unaware of her husband’s participation, she has worked to carry on the legacy since after his death in 1979.

“It wasn’t in our history books," White said. "They paved the way for these young people that are coming behind them now to be able to do what they want to do and accomplish something while they’re in the service.”

The purpose of the chapters is to ensure that the airmen’s legacies are carried on for future generations. Tomorrow the Convention will host a Youth Day focused on aviation for students between 11 and 17 years old. There are nearly 60 chapters across the United States.

Follow Erin Williams on Twitter: @STLPR_Erin