Hanging with Tuskegee Airmen!

 

Imagine writing a history book, and then spending the weekend with living history!  That’s what I did with the Tuskegee Airmen!

My new book came out last week.  Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? is part of the amazing series from Who HQ.  These little books pack a wallop and a ton of information on important people, places and events throughout history and today.  If you have someone in your life under the age of 20, they probably know these books.  It was a real thrill to be able to add to the collection!

But an even bigger thrill was hanging out with some of the Airmen themselves.  I was a guest at the 2018 Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Convention in Las Vegas, NV.  But the guests of honor were six Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA) themselves!  Airmen were not just pilots, but all of the support staff and ground crew that helped put and keep them in the air.  We were lucky to have so many of the originals at the event.

Southwest Airlines was one of the sponsors for Youth Day.  The group of kids and adults you see standing behind the Airmen spend Friday at a local airbase learning about aviation and Saturday learning the history of the Tuskegee Airmen.  Southwest offers a program called “Continuing the Legacy in Aviation” that brings students from 6th grade to college age to a hand-on aviation experience in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX.  The deadline is August 17th to apply this year!

Front row, left to right: Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon (Retired) – the first black woman Army nurse; 2nd Lt. Franklin J. Macon ; Dr. Eugene Richardson; Jerry T. Hodges (477th Bomber Squadron); Lt. Col. Enoch Woodhouse, Esq. (Retired, JAG); Callie O. Gentry – Stenographer for Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., 332nd HQ Lockbourne

Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon was the first black woman to be a nurse in the U.S. Army.  She’s a delightful woman, but was once feared by pilots because she had the ability to ground them!

Nancy Leftenant-Colon (DOTA – Nurse) and Sherri L Smith

Sherri L. Smith and Callie O Gentry – DOTA Stenographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Callie O. Gentry served as a stenographer form Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.,  the commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, shared fantastic stories about her time serving in the military before and after the war.

2nd Lt. Franklin Macon and Dr. Eugene Richards

Franklin Macon is a fellow author.  His book, I Wanted to Be a Pilot:  the Making of a Tuskegee Airman comes out this November.  An extra surprise was meeting Eugene Richards, an original Airman who had read my book Flygirl and liked it!  What a treat to talk to him!

I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the children of the Airmen, including this fantastic trio, the daughters of George “Spanky” Roberts, who was in the first class of Tuskegee Airmen.

Leigh Roberts, Sherri, Lanelle and Maggie Roberts

The Roberts sisters were there representing the Tuskegee Airmen Heritage Chapter of Greater Sacramento.  Legacy and heritage chapters across the country promote STEM and STEAM education in our schools, and even offer scholarships.

Chauncey Spencer II was also in attendance.  His father was one of two African American pilots who flew from Chicago to Washington, DC to promote blacks in aviation.  (Then senator Harry S. Truman was the only person who would meet with them.  If you want to know how it went, read the book!) Chauncey is a huge advocate of STEAM education.  Check out the work he’s doing with kids at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Compton, California!

Peggy Shivers and Sherri

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Peggy Shivers, whose husband Clarence was a Tuskegee Airman.  Peggy has kept Clarence’s legacy as both a pilot and an artist alive at through the Shivers Fund, which provides educational and enrichment opportunities through her local library district in Colorado.

On Saturday morning, I gave a talk to the kids in attendance.  In addition to discussing the book, and my other aviation book, Flygirl, we dreamed big on travel, curiosity, and where we’d love to go in the world.  It was a fun morning, a wonderful weekend, and a great, welcoming crowd.

Special thanks to Marv Abrams, one of the organizers, who made a place for me at the event.  And thank you to all of the support and enthusiasm that greeted this book!  As launches go, this was one for the history books!