Local News

North Carolina honors Tuskegee Airmen at Capitol

Posted February 29, 2012 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated February 29, 2012 7:42 p.m. EST

— The state of North Carolina paid tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots to serve in the U.S. military, at the State Capitol in Raleigh Wednesday.

Four of the original Tuskegee Airmen who now live in North Carolina were invited to the Capitol with their families and were honored by Gov. Beverly Perdue in a special ceremony.

Airmen Terry Bailey, Harvey Alexander, Harold Webb and Joe Burrucker had to fight for the right to fight for their country, Perdue said. By proving themselves as fighters and patriots, they helped break down racial barriers, she added. 

For decades, black servicemen were denied leadership roles and specialty training in the military.

That didn't stop Alexander from overcoming segregation to join military ranks.

"It served me very well. I learned a skill and learned to fly," he said. "As I was flying up in the clouds and above this earth, for the first time in my life, I felt free."

Perdue also honored six other North Carolina airmen posthumously, including Andrew Williams, whose daughter attended the ceremony.

"My father was the type of person who was always positive (in) overcoming any obstacle," said Andrea Williams.

She learned a lot from her father, who went on to be an educator, including love of country and the motto, "Always do your best. No matter what. You can always achieve," she said.

The North Carolina African American Heritage Commission also saluted the veterans for their service and the contributions they made to the nation and the world.

The airmen trained at a segregated air base in Tuskegee, Ala., and were supported by black men and women on the ground. Their exploits in World War II were chronicled in the recently released movie "Red Tails."