We Honor Military Heroes Who Attended HBCUs

The legendary Red Tails planes, flown by a group of African-American military pilots in World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tom Joyner Foundation honors our fallen heroes who attended a HBCU and proudly served this country in the military.

C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, known as the Father of Black Aviation, is one of the most famous of the pilots in the Tuskegee Airmen story. In 1929, Anderson had earned his pilot’s license, and went on to become the first African American to earn a commercial pilot’s certification in 1932. In 1940, Anderson was recruited by the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, to serve as the Chief Civilian Flight Instructor for its new program to train black pilots. In March 1941, Anderson took First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on a 30-minute flight in a biplane. The flight brought much-needed attention to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Anderson received an honorary doctorate from Tuskegee University. On March 13, 2014, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating Alfred “Chief” Anderson.


Robert Friend was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920. Friend fell in love with aviation from a young age. He  wanted to enlist in the Army to become a pilot, but was turned away because he was black.

While a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania – the first historically black college to grant college degrees – he took aviation-related courses. After completing the Civilian Pilot Training Program in 1939, Friend earned his private pilot’s license. When the program opened an opportunity for a segregated pilot training program at Tuskegee, Friend set out to join the war effort and earn his wings.

After completing his training, Friend was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. With the U.S. officially in the war, Friend was deployed overseas, first to North Africa, then to the Europe Theater. There, he was responsible for planning and organizing the implementation of strategic and tactical air missions.

He flew wing man for Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would later go on to be come the first black general of the United States Air Force. He flew 142 combat missions in World War II. His service extended in several other capacities during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

After retiring from the military, his expertise was utilized to oversee the design and production of space products for the Space Shuttle program, lead a company that creates components for the International Space Station and other satellite systems, and direct the research and development for USAF weapons and missile programs.


Harry T. Stewart, Jr. was born in Newport News, Virginia. In 1948, Stewart, a decorated member of the Tuskegee Airmen. In this position, Stewart shot down German planes as a fighter pilot during World War II, but after the war, when Harry Stewart tried to get a job as a commercial airline pilot, he was turned down because he was black.

CLICK HERE to watch a video of 90-year-old Stewart being honored.


Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. graduated from Tuskegee University in 1942 and received civilian pilot training under the government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program. He remained at Tuskegee as a civilian instructor pilot in the Army Air Corps and throughout the remainder of the war, James trained pilots for the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron.

In 1975, James became the first African American to reach the rank of four-star general.





From a young age, William Holloman wanted to fly, and that passion endured with him until adulthood, leading him to a long career in the military.

Holloman was born August 21, 1924 in St. Louis. As a child, his fascination with planes led him to regularly walk two miles to a local airfield to watch the aircraft takeoff and land.

In August of 1942, Holloman completed his aviation cadet exam and began training to become a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, receiving his wings from the U.S. Air Corps in September of 1944. Assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, he flew 19 missions out of the segregated air base in Ramitelli, Italy in 1944 and 1945.

Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.

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