Today in Black History 10/21/2015 The First African American Naval Aviator in the US Navy - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 10/21/2015 The First African American Naval Aviator in the US Navy

Today in Black History 10/21/2015 The First African American Naval Aviator in the US Navy
• October 21, 1948 Jesse LeRoy Brown became the first African American naval aviator in the United States Navy. Brown was born October 13, 1926 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1946. After attending navy pre-flight school and flight training and despite "racist resistance to an African American studying aeronautics and aviation," he was designated a naval aviator. He received his commission as ensign April 15, 1949. Brown died December 4, 1950 when his plane was hit by enemy fire and crashed during the Korean War. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his combat service. On March 18, 1972, the USS Jesse L. Brown was launched in his honor. Also, the County Tax Services Building in Hattiesburg is named in his honor. Brown's biography, "The Flight of Jesse LeRoy Brown," was published in 1998. 

• October 21, 1864 Alfred B. Hilton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died of wounds received at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm during the Civil War. Hilton was born in Harford County, Maryland in 1842. On September 29, 1864, Hilton was serving as a sergeant in the 4th Regiment Colored Infantry when his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. During the battle, Hilton carried the American flag as part of the unit's color guard. As he charged the enemy fortifications, he grabbed the regimental colors from a wounded comrade. When he was seriously wounded, he called out "Boys, save the colors." Two of his fellow soldiers grabbed the flags before they could touch the ground. Hilton was posthumously awarded the medal, America's highest military decoration, April 6, 1865 for his actions during the battle. Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood and Private Charles Veale, both African Americans, also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle. 

• October 21, 1865 Matthew Wesley Clair, Sr., one of the first African Americans elected bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Union, West Virginia. Clair earned his bachelor's degree from Morgan College in 1889 and was licensed to preach. He earned his Ph. D. from Bennett College in 1901. Clair was presiding elder of the Washington District of the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1897 to 1902 and was pastor of Asbury Church in Washington, D. C. from 1902 to 1919 where he spearheaded the construction of a 1,800-seat sanctuary. He also edited the conference paper, "The Banner." Clair was elected bishop in 1920 and assigned to a mission in Monrovia, Liberia where he served until 1928. While in Liberia, he was a member of the Board of Education of the Republic of Liberia and the American Advisory Commission on the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute of Liberia. He was assigned to the Covington, Kentucky Episcopal Area in 1928 and served the Black conferences in the Midwest until his retirement in 1936. Clair died June 28, 1943. 

• October 21, 1917 John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, hall of fame jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer, was born in Cheraw, South Carolina. Gillespie had taught himself to play the piano, trombone, and trumpet by 12 and he took his first professional job at 18. Together with Charlie Parker, Gillespie was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz and was also influential in the development of Afro-Cuban jazz. Gillespie was a major influence on many musicians, including Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, and Arturo Sandoval. He organized a band to go on a State Department tour of the Middle East in 1956 and earned the nickname "the Ambassador of Jazz." Gillespie was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1960 and was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982. Gillespie received the Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France's most prestigious cultural award, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. He received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, from President George H. W. Bush November 17, 1989 and received Kennedy Center Honors in 1990. He published his autobiography "To Be or Not to Bop," in 1979. Gillespie died January 6, 1993. His recording "Groovin' High" (1945) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance" in 2000 and "A Night in Tunisia" (1946) was inducted in 2004. 

• October 21, 1937 Lucy Diggs Stowe, educator, administrator and one of the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, died. Stowe was born July 4, 1885 in Berryville, Virginia but raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She earned her bachelor's degree from Howard University in 1908 and was class valedictorian. While at Howard, she co-founded the sorority January 15, 1908. She helped draft the sorority's constitution and served as the first president. After graduation, Stowe returned to Baltimore to teach high school English. She also attended Columbia University where she earned her Master of Arts degree in 1915. Stowe won the national title at the first tournament of the American Tennis Association in 1917. She returned to Washington, D. C. in 1919 to establish the first junior high school in D. C. and served as principal until 1922. That year, she was appointed the first dean of women at Howard, a position she held until her death. Stowe also founded the National Association of College Women, and served as the first president for several years, and the Association of Advisors to Women in Colored Schools. Lucy Diggs Stowe Hall at Howard opened in 1943 and Lucy Diggs Stowe Elementary School in D. C. is named in her honor. Stowe was posthumously inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2011. Her biography, "Faithful to the Task at Hand: The Life of Lucy Diggs Stowe," was published in 2012. 

• October 21, 1950 Ronald Ervin McNair, physicist and NASA astronaut, was born in Lake City, South Carolina. McNair earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 and his Ph. D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. McNair was chosen for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program in 1978 and flew aboard the Challenger in February, 1984 as a mission specialist. McNair died, along with six other crew members, during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger January 28, 1986. A number of public places have been renamed in honor of McNair, including schools throughout the country. The United States Department of Education offers the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program for low income, first generation, and/or underrepresented students. 

• October 21, 1980 Valerie Thomas received patent number 4,229,761 for her invention of the Illusion Transmitter which allowed the user to render three dimensional illusions in real-time. Thomas was born in May, 1943 and graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in physics. She went to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program in 1964 and remained there until her retirement in 1995. In addition to her invention, Thomas designed programs to research Halley's Comet and ozone holes. During her time at NASA, she received many awards including the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal. She is currently an associate at the UMBC Center for Multicore Hybrid Productivity Research and serves as a mentor for the Science Mathematics Aerospace Research and Technology and National Technical Association. 

• October 21, 1994 Charles Edward Anderson, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, died. Anderson was born August 13, 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Lincoln University in 1941. After graduating, Anderson enlisted in the United States Air Force and was sent to the University of Chicago where he earned his meteorological certification in 1943 and began serving as weather officer for the Tuskegee Airmen. Anderson earned his Master of Science degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1948 and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1960. He remained a weather officer in the U. S. Army Air Corps until 1960. Anderson was a professor from 1966 until his death, first at the University of Wisconsin and then at North Carolina State University. Today the American Meteorology Society honor Anderson's legacy with the Charles Anderson Award given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the promotion of diversity in the atmospheric sciences. 

• October 21, 1996 The United States Navy launched the USNS Henson, a Pathfinder class oceanographic survey ship. The ship is named for Matthew Alexander Henson, the first person to reach the North Pole, and is still in service. Henson was born August 8, 1866 in Charles County, Maryland. He went to sea as a cabin boy at 12 and sailed around the world over the next several years. He met Commander Robert Peary who recruited him as a colleague in 1887 and they made many expeditions, including their 1909 expedition to the North Pole. Although Peary received many honors, Henson was largely ignored and spent most of the next 30 years working as a clerk in New York City. Congress belatedly awarded him a duplicate of the Silver medal awarded to Peary in 1944. Henson authored "A Negro Explorer at the North Pole" about his arctic exploration in 1912 and an autobiography, "Dark Companion," in 1947. Henson died March 9, 1955. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1986. The National Geographic Society posthumously awarded its most prestigious medal, the Hubbard Medal, to Henson in 2000. The Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center in Washington, D. C. is named in his honor as well as several schools in the state of Maryland. Henson's story was told in the 1988 made-for-television movie "Glory & Honor."

Received patent for the Illusion Transmitter

​Physicist and NASA Astronaut

Hall of Fame Jazz Trumpeter

Today in Black History 10/20/2015 | The Black Revo...
Today in Black History, 10/22/2015 | Julie Dash

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Saturday, 20 October 2018
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