Tuskegee Airmen Brig. Gen. Charles McGee Dies

Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, passed away Sunday morning at the age of 102.

He was a career officer in the United States Air Force for more than 30 years and flew a three-war total of 409 combat missions in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, one of the highest combat totals and longest active-duty careers by any Air Force fighter pilot in history.

For his service, McGee received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Bronze Star Medal, along with many other military honors. In 2007, as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, McGee received the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2011, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and in February 2020, was promoted from colonel to brigadier general.

After his military service, McGee held functional and honorary positions in aviation. In 1978, at the age of 58, he completed his college degree at Columbia College, over thirty years after his initial enrollment at the University of Illinois. Though interrupted by World War II, attaining a college degree had been a lifelong goal.

McGee served as the director of the Kansas City airport and as a member of the Aviation Advisory Commission. For over 30 years, he has been an ambassador of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., giving numerous public addresses and has received accolades including the National Aeronautic Association’s “Elder Statesman of Aviation.” McGee served as national president of the association from 1983 to 1985, and served as its president.

McGee also served as a consultant to the 2012 George Lucas film, Red Tails.

In 2018, to celebrate McGee’s 99th birthday, businessman and former Air Force pilot Glenn Gonzales took McGee for a flight in a HondaJet, allowing McGee to take the controls of an airplane in flight for the first time in 37 years. In April 2019, McGee was honored at the King Arts Complex in Columbus, Ohio.

In December 2019, for his 100th birthday, McGee flew with a copilot in a Cirrus Vision Jet and a Cessna Citation M2. The Cirrus flight took him to Dover Air Force Base, where he was welcomed by the base commander and many airmen, anxious to meet the Tuskegee Airman who helped break down barriers for them. He was feted at a lunch hosted at the AOPA National Aviation Community Center where he received awards and accolades from the FAA, the US Senate, the State of Maryland, the city of Frederick, Maryland, and numerous dignitaries. Those who flew with the colonel remarked that he handled the airplanes well and with little assistance.

On February 2, 2020, McGee presented the coin for the coin flip at Super Bowl LIV, alongside three other fellow centenarian World War II veterans. Two days later, he was honored in-person at the 2020 State of the Union Address with a promotion to brigadier general.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyed J. Austin posted on Twitter, “Today, we lost an American hero. Charles McGee, Brigadier General and one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airman, passed at the age of 102. While I am saddened by his loss, I’m also incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, his legacy, and his character. Rest in peace, General.”

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