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.
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.