Brown Condor Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum set to open soon

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The Brown Condor. Ace in a Day. These aren’t the names of comic book heroes, but actual aviation legends from Mississippi-something every visitor will learn first-hand, along with tales of other state aviator trailblazers and landmark achievements through compelling displays and relics at the Brown Condor Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum on Pass Road in Gulfport.

It’s been 15 years in the making, with a few unavoidable delays such as COVID, but it won’t be long until visitors are checking in and checking out the Brown Condor Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.

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Excitement fills the air as workers put the finishing touches on the Gulfport museum. Just ask lifelong resident Donald Benjamin who first learned of the museum’s namesake eight months ago. “I was born here, and I found out about John C. Robinson by coming to work here. He’s from Gulfport, and that makes me proud.”

“John C. Robinson is the reason we are building this museum. We wanted to honor him-an African-American-first one to fight in combat in a foreign land. He fought for the Ethiopian Air Force when they were being invaded by Mussolini. He grew up in Gulfport during the Segregation era. He fell in love with aviation when he saw a pilot land in Gulfport’s Jones Park. He told his father he was going to be a pilot,” said Francisco Gonzalez, Project Manager of the Brown Condor Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.

Colonel John C. Robinson is one of many featured aviation heroes from throughout the state from astronaut Donald Peterson from Winona, Mississippi, to the Gulf Coast’s Jerry O’Keefe, who earned the title ‘Ace in a  Day’ and Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise. “We have Lawrence C. Roberts who was a Tuskegee Airman. We also have the Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit. Who can believe Mississippi has four astronauts who call Mississippi home- two who went to the moon?” Gonzalez said.

The museum doesn’t just showcase relics and heroes’ tales. There are plenty of photo ops for everyone and interactive, hands-on exhibits to learn from and train our aviation heroes of tomorrow. “Here I am airborne. Do you see that? They will learn the importance of flying an airplane,” Gonzalez said as he showcased a number of interactive, hands-on exhibits for visitors, all with the potential to train our aviators of tomorrow.

While you can’t get seated behind the yoke just yet, you can lend a hand as a volunteer to help with a few more things left on the checklist before the museum is set to open in late September.

If you’d like to make a donation or volunteer visit gulfcoasthub.com.

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Toni started at WXXV News 25 in December of 2013, just three months after the news was launched. She has served as Assignment Editor, anchored for nearly two years, worked as a reporter for several years and hosted Coastal Connections for more than four years. Toni graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Mississippi where she was editor of the Student Printz. She then did an internship on Capitol Hill, working for a U.S. Senator, then returned to Mississippi as a reporter at WDAM in Hattiesburg. After that, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working as a reporter for FOX 25 in Biloxi, then crossing city lines to work at WLOX-TV news in Biloxi, starting out as a producer, then working as a photographer, reporter, weekend assignment editor and weekend anchor. She was among the station team that won the Edward Murrow and Peabody awards for coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Toni moved to the Lone Star State where she worked as the morning and noon anchor, investigative reporter and live shot reporter for KZTV Action 10 News, then KRIS TV News in Corpus Christi, Texas. Toni moved back to the Magnolia State to be with and take care of her family, working as a multi-media journalist and fill-in anchor at WDBD Fox 40 news in Jackson. After almost completing a second degree in filmmaking at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Toni transitioned back to news at News 25. Toni is blessed to have a wonderful support network of close family, friends and mentors, and she hopes to pay it forward. She has a three-legged chiweenie named Rocky Balboa because of his fighting spirit. She loves writing and has completed a novel that has been adapted into a screenplay, and has just finished another screenplay called "Delta Rose." She's currently working on a new legal thriller called "Fall From Grace." Stay tuned.... If you’d like to book a live in studio interview on News 25 Today, just email: tmiles@wxxv25.com. These interviews can have up to two guests, last about two minutes and showcase community events, non-profit organizations and things of interest to people in our area…and they’re FREE! Just send information about your event, including date, time, location, contact number and/or website for viewers wanting more information, along with the proper name and titles of the person or two people who will be interviewed, and Toni or producer Porsha Williams (pwilliams@wxxv25.com) will get back with you via email in a timely manner to book a date. Typical interview times are daily at: 5:45, 6:45, 7:45 or 8:45 am. Guests are asked to arrive about 30 minutes beforehand. You can also ask about booking a live shot on location for news events for our 6 and 7 am newscasts. We look forwarding to having you!

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