The Museum of Science and Industry is my favorite Chicago museum. Next to the submarine, I like the half-plane that soars over the trains. I especially like it when the museum operates the wings with the sound of take-offs and landings. This particular plane honors the career of Captain William Norwood, the first Afro-American pilot for United Airlines. Norwood was recognized for his achievements in aviation and education, and his thirty-one years of dedicated service to United, by having his name painted on the Boeing 727, one of the many planes he flew.
Next month Norwood, an Illinois native, will be the keynote speaker at a free Black History month event in Bolingbrook. The theme is “Taking Flight” and it will honor Tuskegee Airman, O. Lawton Wilkerson, one of the four Tuskegee Airmen still living in Chicagoland. The so-called WWII “Tuskegee Experience,” was a U.S. Army Air Corps program to train African-Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. “The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance, instructors, and all support personnel. They overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II.” (Tuskegee Airmen Chronology, Daniel Haulman 2016).
Unfortunately, like the women pilots of WWII I recently wrote about, it was many years before the Tuskegee airmen were officially recognized and were hired for jobs commensurate with their education and abilities.
The event at Bolingbrook High School with Captain Norwood and Mr. Wilkerson will be on February 9, from 2-5PM, with a preceding guest reception from 1-2PM. The program is expected to reach 500-700 people with a goal to educate, entertain, and connect members of the community to businesses, organizations and opportunities.
“Take flight” to honor these remarkable men who made history.
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