On May 2, Harold Huskins, member of the Tuskegee Airmen and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel passed away at 85 years old. He was from a generation of African Americans that battled segregation in the US and fascism in Europe. He died that Tuesday after complications from a fall.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of black pilots to fight in World War II. They served in the Air Force at a time when it was still subject to Jim Crow laws which required racial segregation. Even though they proved their worth as military pilots they still operated in segregated units and did not fight alongside their white countrymen.
Huskins spoke at LPC last Veterans Day about his experiences as a Tuskegee Airmen and
the 332nd Fighter Group. This group earned the nickname “Red Tail Angels” from the bombers they escorted because of the red paint on the tail of their planes and because compared with other escort groups they lost very few bombers.
After 22 years of flying many different airplanes all over the world, Hoskins retired at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield. He went on to have a long second career at Cal State East Bay, where he worked as an assistant vice president of student services.
On the side he traveled to dozens of schools in Texas and California, speaking to students about what it was like to be an African American serviceman through the era when the Military first began to desegregate. The fall of Nazism and the Civil Rights movement were things he saw in his lifetime.
From him “the kids learned that black people were a part of the war and part of the fight to rid the world of Adolf Hitler,” said his wife, Rose Hoskins. “But mostly he wanted young kids to know that if you really believe in something and stick with it, you can achieve your dreams.”
“He strongly encouraged my education,” Tiffeney Cooper, his stepdaughter said. “Without his support, I don’t think I would have gone this far.”
Cooper is a doctoral candidate at Texas Southern University.
The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to Hoskins in 2007, after his 80th birthday, by President George W. Bush.
Harold dedicated much of his time in later life and energy to raising money to fund college scholarships for underprivileged youth.