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Did You Know...

We have a Tuskegee Airman in our lineage?  Grant S. Williams Sr.  a 5th generation descendant of Sydnor Smith and Sally Craddock passed at 94 years of age in 2014.  Williams, a retired chief master sergeant from Hampton, served in the famed World War II group that battled discrimination against African Americans at the same time as it fought Germans in air missions over Europe.


Wiiliams was trained as an airplane mechanic, according to the Daily Press.  At the time, military officials didn't believe African Americans could be fighter pilots.  Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,500 sorties and destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, according to a 2009 story in The Virginian-Pilot.

But when they returned home from the war as heroes, they were forced to leave military bases through separate gates, Williams said in interviews with The Pilot in 2009 and 2011.


Williams spent three years with the airmen and earned a Bronze Star for his work in Italy. He retired from the Air Force in 1975 and shared his experiences with local groups and military personnel. He was one of six members of the Tidewater Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. who attended the swearing-in ceremony for President Barack Obama in 2009 as honored guests. "All of these documented original Tuskegee Airmen say they had to fight for the right to fight for their own country," said retired Air Force Lt. Col. T.J. Spann, who traveled with Williams as they shared the message of the airmen. Spann joined the Tidewater chapter in 1998 and is its immediate past president.


Williams and the other airmen had a way of sharing their story and of filling in the gaps in the history books in a way that audiences appreciated, Spann said. "They taught me that integrity is everything," he said. "Know who you are and be comfortable in your own skin with who you are and then go out and help others who are less educated or less fortunate to do the same thing. Help them to exceed like we did."


Williams will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, according to his Daily Press obituary. Spann said Williams' family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Educational Assistance Program to be used for scholarships for six local high school students and an award for an active-duty Air Force member in Williams' name.                         


-The Virginian Pilot article

  June 27, 2014

(accompanying video below)

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