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05-20-03, 03:24 PM
May 20, 2003

Former Tuskegee airman dies at 80

Associated Press

ATLANTA — Horace A. Bohannon, one of the nation’s first black fighter pilots, died of congestive heart failure. He was 80.
Bohannon trained with the elite corps of volunteers at Tuskegee, Ala., as part of “The Experiment” set up by the Pentagon during World War II. The training was rigorous, former graduate Roy Eley of Atlanta said, with only 992 men graduating as Tuskegee Airmen.

“You weren’t just the cream of the crop; you were the cream of the cream,” Bohannon said. “I’ve never been in a situation where the character of the people was as high as when I was at Tuskegee. We all had something to prove.”

Bohannon shared his experiences as a speaker in various high schools during Black History Month.

“[Bohannon] was a very engaging person,” said fellow airman Hiram Little. “We tried to inspire minority students, male and female, to consider aviation as a career.”

After hearing her husband and his fellow airmen speak, Bohannon’s wife, Ora, said, “school children looked up to them as celebrities.”

Bohannon retired in 1977 from working in contract compliance with the Department of Defense, assuring hiring practices followed the law. He also headed two successful fund-raising drives to build statues honoring Charles S. Harper, Booker T. Washington High School’s first principal, and J.D. Winston of Butler Street YMCA.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.