ADA – Col. Charles McGee, one of the first African American aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces, will deliver East Central University’s Sixth Annual Louise Young Diversity Lecture on Tuesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. in the Ataloa Theatre of ECU’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.
The lecture is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow the lecture.
McGee, the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. Having served heroically in three wars, he is highly decorated. McGee holds an Air Force record of 409 fighter combat missions flown in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
He flew 136 missions in P-39/P-47/P-51 with the 302nd Fighter Squadron in Italy, 100 missions in F-51 with the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron in Korea and 173 missions in RF-4C with the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Vietnam.
McGee commanded the 44th Fighter Squadron in the Philippines, 1951-53; 7230th Support Squadron in Italy, 1961-63 in regards to the Jupiter Missile Deployment; 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 1967-68, in Southeast Asia; and Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in 1972.
"The Sixth Annual Louise Young Diversity Lecture provides attendees an opportunity to hear from a very special American hero. Col. Charles McGee overcame great barriers of racial segregation to become one of the U.S. Air Force's most decorated pilots,” said Dr. Louise Young. “The story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II is both inspiring and extraordinary. Those who attend the lecture will be able to hear Col. McGee, to meet him and receive a special gift - a dog tag bearing the image of their iconic Red Tail airplane and the principles of the Tuskegee Airmen on the reverse side. It is an honor for me to be able to bring this exciting evening to my hometown and my alma mater, ECU."
McGee’s awards include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Clusters, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 25 Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with Cluster, Presidential Unit-Citation, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Hellenic Republic World War II Commemorative Medal, French Legends of Honor and several campaign and service ribbons.
He retired from military service on Jan. 31, 1973.
McGee was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1919 and spent his childhood there and in Illinois and Ohio. World War II interrupted his education at the University of Illinois. He was sworn into the enlisted reserve on Oct. 26, 1942. As a cadet, McGee entered Army Air Corps Pilot Training in November. He was commissioned second lieutenant on June 30, 1943, graduating in Class 43-F, Tuskegee Army Air Field, Alabama.
After obtaining a degree in business administration, McGee was director of real estate and purchasing for ISC Industries, vice president of real estate for Interstate Securities Company, and later served as manager of the Kansas City Downtown Airport. He retired from civilian endeavors in 1982 and had active community interests in the Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). McGee also served several years on the Kansas City, Mo. Armory Advisory Board, Aviation Advisory Commission and served as director of the Kansas City Municipal Assistance Corporation.
McGee is a life member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Air Force Association, Military Order of World Wars and Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. He was a member of the Airmen Association Board at its inception in 1972 and served as its national president in 1983-85 and again in 1998-2002.
He has been recognized with the Boy Scouts of America’s Silver Beaver Award, Airmen’s General Noel F. Parrish’s Gold Medal, National Aeronautics Association’s induction as Elder Statesman of Aviation, Air Force Association’s Lifetime Achievement Honor, honorary doctorate in public service by Tuskegee University and, as a Tuskegee Airman, the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded on March 29, 2007.
McGee and his late wife, the former Frances E. Nelson of Champaign, Ill., reared three children, became grandparents of 10 and great-grandparents of three. He currently resides in Bethesda, Md., where he moved from Kansas City in 1995. He now enjoys six additional great-grandchildren in the family and remains active in the Airmen’s Association, fraternally and in his church.
Young is a graduate of Ada Public Schools and East Central University (B.A. in geography in 1969). She earned a master’s and doctorate from the University of Colorado. From 1971 to 1974, Young was an instructor of geography at ECU. In 2008, she established an endowed lectureship within the ECU Foundation with the goal of presenting an annual free lecture for students, faculty and community members on various aspects of diversity.
Young retired as senior software engineer with Raytheon Company, where she worked for 34 years. In addition to her software engineering career, she has received numerous awards for her work in diversity, both inside and outside of corporate America, especially with regards to equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. In 2003, she received the prestigious Raytheon Diversity Heroes Award from Raytheon CEO, Bill Swanson.