Tuskegee Airman to Speak at UCA

Milton Pitts Crenchaw, of the original Tuskegee Airmen, will speak on his experiences as one of Arkansas’ first African American aviators and flight instructors with the original Tuskegee Airmen at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute.

His lecture will take place on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 12-1:30 p.m. in the Ida Waldran Auditorium on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. This event is free and open to the public. It is hosted by UCA’s History Department.

Crenchaw was the first African American from Arkansas and one of the first in the country to be trained by the federal government as a civilian licensed pilot. He trained hundreds of cadet pilots while at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute in the 1940s.

His combined service record extends for over forty years of federal service from 1941 to 1983 with the U.S. Army (in the Army Air Corps) and eventually the U.S. Air Force.

“Mr. Crenchaw’s appearance will benefit the public in general and especially all students of history – young and old– by connecting this man to his remarkable WWII military experiences as well as to the emergence of Black Civil Rights in our nation,” said Dr. Sondra Gordy, a professor of  history. “This short appearance offers an opportunity to hear a ‘living cultural and historical icon’ from our beloved state who traces his family history to slavery and spans close to a century of Arkansas and American History.” 

Milton Crenchaw was born on January 13, 1919, in Little Rock.  Crenchaw was the first Arkansan to arrive at Moton Airbase in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1939.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he focused his attention on flying in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, sponsored by the Army Air Corps, and becoming a flight instructor.

This was possible due to the landmark government decision of December 1940 regarding the training and inclusion of black pilots in the army. This idea was first initiated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and then revisited by the Department of War in response to the shortage of personnel in the aviation, pilot, and engineering sectors of government.

Crenchaw graduated with his civilian pilot license and then commercial pilot certificate on August 11, 1941. Crenchaw became a primary civilian flight instructor and eventually one of the two original supervising squadron commanders under Chief Pilot Charles A. Anderson. He and Charles Foxx were the first instructors for the first group of student pilot trainees between 1941 and 1946 at the Tuskegee Institute.

For more information, please contact Outreach and Community Engagement at 501.450.3118.

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The term “original” is applied to the individuals who received government and civilian instructional training while at Tuskegee between 1941 and 1946. Approximately 992 pilots were trained at Tuskegee, 450 of whom saw action overseas during the war; four of those were Arkansans.