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Surrounded by his family, once and always a Red Tail, Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee passed on Sunday morning at the age of 102 and in the process gifted us all with a reminder that “impossible” is merely a word.
Words like Trailblazer and Icon are commonly used synonyms for men and women in an era who made a way out of no way. When there was no blueprint or example set before them, they became the example.
From violent clashes on the streets where police and mobs of whites terrorized Black lives to over 400 air combat missions across three different wars over a span of 30 years, McGee used his expertise, brilliance, and leadership to inspire the next wave of Black aviators even while being targeted by enemies for much of his life.
MLK Day honors not just King’s ideas but also those connected to him who changed America’s trajectory.
King and McGee are an integral part of change during their era. McGee represents the unflinching and still nature that many of our legends embodied – progress in the face of pressure.
A True Pioneer
McGee, like so many of our recently fallen heroes, left an imprint on not only his industry but the film world. The movie Red Tails connects his story to a whole new audience who may have never heard learned his story.
It’s easy to hear “first Black this” or “first Black that” and offer simple congratulations. But imagine a time where “colored” pilots existed before color televisions. It’s not just a cool story. It’s truly historic.
We will remember McGee for the Pioneer he was.