Roscoe Brown Jr., who served with the all-black Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and was a longtime New York City educator, has died.
Brown died Saturday at a hospital in the Bronx after breaking his hip in a recent fall, his granddaughter Lisa Bodine said. He was 94.
In 2007, Brown and five other airmen accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen. President George W. Bush and Congress awarded the airmen with one of the nation’s highest honors for fighting to defend their country even as they faced bigotry at home.
At the time, Brown told The Associated Press that receiving the medal was one of the greatest days in the history of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Brown was a commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, and is credited with being the first U.S. pilot to shoot down an advanced German military jet, the family noted. He earned numerous awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Nearly 1,000 fighter pilots trained as a segregated Army Air Corps unit at the Tuskegee, Alabama, air base. Not allowed to practice or fight with their white counterparts, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves by painting the tails of their airplanes red, which led to them becoming known as the “Red Tails.” Their story was told in a 2012 movie of the same name, on which Brown was an adviser.
In a 2011 interview with WNBC-TV, Brown noted that the Civil War occurred only about 70 years before World War II.
“I didn’t understand the brutality of the Civil War, but when I was a Tuskegee Airman, I knew that I was good, I knew that I had to challenge the system, and I loved to fly.”
“My message to young people is to keep on working,” he added. “You’ve got to be better, you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to believe. And if you believe you can overcome. … That’s the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.”
A native of Washington, D.C., Brown held a doctorate from New York University. He served as president of the Bronx Community College at the City University of New York and director of the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University.
He was later professor at The City University of New York Graduate Center and director of the Center for Urban Education Policy.
For many years, he also hosted “African American Legends,” a public affairs show produced by CUNY TV.
During his 17 years at the Bronx Community College, “Dr. Brown intensified the college’s outreach to New York City’s economic and educational institutions through partnerships with business and industry,” said CUNY Chancellor James Milliken. “With his leadership, new programs were developed in high growth professions in the fields of health, technology and human services.”
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.