(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

One of the last original Tuskegee Airman has died at 99

Robert Friend flew 142 combat missions in World War II as part of the elite group of fighter pilots trained at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute

June 24, 2019 - 3:18 pm
Categories: 

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — World War II pilot Robert Friend, one of the last original members of the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen, has died at the age of 99.

Friend's daughter, Karen Friend Crumlich, told The Desert Sun her father died Friday at a Southern California hospital.

Born in South Carolina on 1920's leap day, Friend flew 142 combat missions in World War II as part of the elite group of fighter pilots trained at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. The program was created after the NAACP began challenging policies barring black people from flying military aircraft.

African-Americans were barred from being piolets in the US military before the war, but in 1941, due to pressures from civil right groups, the US Army Air Corps created an all-black squadron, according to Tuskegee Airmen Inc. 

Friend's 28-year Air Force career included service in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He also worked on space launch vehicles and served as foreign technology program director before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and forming his own aerospace company.

Crumlich told media her father wanted to parachute out of a plane with the Golden Knight's Army team for his 100th birthday. To honor her father, she plans to take the jump in his spot in February