Tuskegee Airmen Roscoe Brown flies west

Captain Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., squadron commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group – the famed Tuskegee Airmen or “Red Tails” – passed away in New York on July 2. He was 94.

Dr. Roscoe Brown

One of Brown’s last public appearances was at the annual Jones Beach airshow in Long Island, N.Y., over Memorial Day weekend. Invited to the show by officials with Sheltair, Brown stole the show when he was invited to Sheltair’s hospitality tent and then was introduced by air show Rob Reider to the airshow crowds. Hundreds of thousands of people responded to the announcement and, while obviously frail, Dr. Brown doffed his cap in recognition of the honor and broke into a quiet smile, Sheltair officials report.

“Roscoe Brown and all of the Tuskegee Airmen overcame so much adversity to become one of the most respected units of the Army Air Corps in World War II,” said Jim Kidrick, President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “They were true American heroes who served their county with great distinction. We are proud to honor Roscoe Brown and all of the men from his unit in the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2008. Brown and fellow airman Lee Archer were on hand at the museum and accepted the induction on behalf of all of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Museum’s North American P51D Mustang “Bunnie” is painted in honor of Brown and the Tuskegee Airmen. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Archer passed away at age 90 in 2010.

Brown graduated from the Tuskegee Flight School on March 12, 1944, as member of class 44-C-SE and served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II. During this period, Captain Brown shot down an advanced German Me-262 jet fighter and a FW-190 fighter.

Known as the “Red tails” because of their unit markings, the Tuskegee Airmen program officially began at the Tuskegee Institute, a highly-regarded university founded by Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Airmen, including ground support crews, were placed under the command of Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., one of the few African American West Point graduates.

The Tuskegee Airmen saw their first combat mission in North Africa in 1943. They were initially equipped with P-40 Warhawks and P-39 Airacobras. Later they had P-47 Thunderbolts, and finally were given the airplane they would become most identified with, the P-51 Mustang.

By the end of World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen achieved an impressive combat record, shooting down well over 100 German aircraft and receiving three distinguished unit citations. The Tuskegee Airmen were also awarded several Silver Stars, 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Purple Hearts, 14 Bronze Stars and 744 Air Medals. Their valiant efforts lead the way to the desegregation of the armed forces in 1948.

On March 29, 2007, Brown attended a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, where he and the other Tuskegee Airmen collectively were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their service.

Brown attended the segregated Dunbar High School and, infatuated after seeing Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” at the Smithsonian Institution, longed to become an aviator.

Prior to his wartime service, Brown graduated from Springfield College, Springfield, Mass., where he was valedictorian of the Class on 1943.

After the war, Brown resumed his education. His doctoral dissertation was on exercise physiology and he became a professor at New York University and President of Bronx Community College. In 1992, Brown received an honorary doctor of humanics degree from alma mater Springfield College.

Mr. Brown resided in Riverdale, New York. He was also a member, and past president, of the 100 Black Men of America New York Chapter. He was a professor of Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center

He married the former Laura Jones. In addition to his son Dennis, he is survived by another son, Donald, and daughters Doris Bodine and Dianne McDougall. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered that the city and state flags be flown at half-staff in Dr. Brown’s honor until July 9 at sunset.

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