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Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Eldridge Williams Passes Away At 97

July 15, 2015 - Lt. Col. Eldridge Williams one of the last members of the Tuskegee Airmen passed away on July 2nd at the age of 97. Lt. Col. Eldridge F. Williams was born November 2, 1917. In 1941, he was drafted and after a year of service. He was selected to attend Officer Training School at Tuskegee University.

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps and assigned to Tuskegee Army Airfield, he rose to the rank of captain. But with no desire for a military career, he left the service and became head basketball coach at North Carolina A&T College in Greensboro.

In 1948, Williams was recalled to military service during the Berlin Airlift. In December of 1949, a year after President Harry. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which integrated the U.S. armed forces, Williams departed for his first integrated assignment on the island of Okinawa.


Williams served in various military capacities, and after 23 years, he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. In January 1964, Williams joined the Miami Dade County Public Schools. He was named coordinator of federal programs, and later chosen as the director of administrative staffing and policy development.

In 1971 he assumed the job of director of school desegregation. The position eventually became director, Office of Equal Opportunity, which encompassed the implementation of Titles VII, IX and other federal regulations on discrimination. Williams became executive director of personnel in 1978 and retired in 1985.

Before a U.S. aircraft broke the sound barrier, the Tuskegee Airmen overcame a daunting social hurdle, breaking the Army Air Corps' color barrier. On March 29, 2007, In the Capitol Rotunda, President Bush and Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen (collectively, not individually), more than 60 years after the 332nd Fighter Group's World War II achievements that were made bittersweet by the racial discrimination they endured after returning home.


"I thank you for the honor you have brought to our country, and the medal you are about to receive means that our country honors you," Bush said to the roughly 300-member audience of surviving airmen, Tuskegee Airmen widows and other relatives, before presenting the congressional award. The Tuskegee Airmen fought two wars -- one in the European theater and another in the hearts and minds of the nation's citizens, he said. Saying he wanted to "offer a gesture to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities," Bush held his straightened right hand to his brow and saluted the airmen. After returning his salute, the airmen remained standing and applauded.
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