Airmen with Mississippi roots: Breaking barriers on and off the ground

Before the Air Force shattered the sound barrier, these airmen shattered the race barrier: a common reference to the Tuskegee Airmen, our nation’s first all-black fighter squadron.

Their fighting outside the cockpit was world changing as chronicled by the daughter of one of these historic airmen and by the Brown Condor Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum in Gulfport.

Brown Condor Association President of the Board of Directors Retired Air Force Colonel Phil Harding said, “John C. Robinson helped establish the Tuskegee Airmen who are world renowned these days. They were discriminated against in World War II, but they were the most in demand pilots. When the bomber crews saw the Red Tails coming, they knew they were safe.”

Lawrence E. Roberts was one of them. It was only later in life that his daughter, Pass Christian resident Dorothy Roberts, learned of her father’s heroics as a Tuskegee airman and beyond as chronicled at the Brown Condor Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum in Gulfport. “The United States Army Air Corps was segregated, and then the United States Air Force was the was the first armed forces that integrated. That’s a really pivotal piece of information that people aren’t really aware of.”

Her father, Col. Lawrence E. Roberts, played a pivotal role in this, posthumously receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for bravery, patriotism, and helping persuade President Harry Truman to desegregate our nation’s armed forces. “If we don’t know our history, we are apt to repeat it. I think museums like this give people the opportunity to see where we come from and where we need to head as a country and as a community as well.”

Gone, but not forgotten. Their legacies live on today, propelling and inspiring the aviation leaders and world changers of tomorrow. “Last week we had a group of home-schooled students in here. I think we created a few budding pilots last week.”

Heroes whose stories live on here and despite the volume of medals and accolades earned over the years, Dorothy Roberts says her father knew who was the true wind beneath his wings. “I would be remiss if I didn’t speak of my mother’s ability to pick up and move our family, I believe it was 27 times in his 32-year career. I feel very blessed that Lawrence and Lucimarian Roberts were my parents.”

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