Meet The Tuskegee Airman In Your Own Backyard

Nov 10, 2014

Lt. Col. Leo Gray is one of a few dozen remaining Tuskegee Airman. He began training in Tuskegee, AL in 1943.
Credit Philip Hall / University of Alaska Anchorage for "Living history: Tuskegee aviator visits UAA." Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Lt. Col. Leo Gray was born in Boston in 1924. A trumpet player and track runner, he joined the Army in 1943. A year later, he flew solo for the first time, a training flight in Tuskegee, Ala.

Gray flew with the 332nd Fighter Group, arguably the most famous of the Tuskegee Airmen. In 1941, for the first time, the United States Army began training black pilots.The Army was still segregated and trained the men in the same location: Tuskegee.

Gray's fighter group painted the tails of their airplanes bright red and became known as the Red Tails. Lucasfilm even released a movie about the 332nd Fighter Group in 2012:

 

For all the Hollywood special effects and computer graphics, there is simply no substitute for hearing tales of the Red Tails from an actual Red Tail.

Of the nearly 1,000 pilots trained in Tuskegee, fewer than 50 are still alive. Lt. Col. Leo Gray, now 90, lives in Coconut Creek. Reporter Michael Sharp spoke with the Tuskegee Airman in our own backyard.