— Dothan Eagle (@dothaneagle) November 18, 2015
Milton Crenchaw, one of the last original Tuskegee Airmen instructors and an Arkansas aviation pioneer, has died. Crenchaw passed away at the age of 96 in Georgia after battling cardiovascular disease and pneumonia according to his family.
Crenchaw was the recent subject of a profile by the Dothan Eagle newspaper in Arkansas, which detailed some of his historic exploits as a pilot and flight instructor. Crenchaw, who left his home state and lived in Atlanta with daughter, Dolores Singleton, was responsible for training several of the cadets that took to the skies at the Tuskegee Institute during the 1940s.
He was the first Black instructor at what is now known as Fort Rucker in Alabama, teaching at the predominately white camp in 1954 according to his daughter’s account. Ms. Singleton said at the time of the profile that her father was one of two remaining original Tuskegee Airmen instructors.
The Associated Press writes that Crenchaw, a Little Rock native, entered the civilian pilot training program instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The U.S. War Department faced a dearth of qualified pilots, airplane mechanics and general support staff needed to keep the fleet operational.
The Tuskegee Airmen were part of the military’s early integration efforts, officially forming the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces.
Crenchaw became a pilot while studying at Tuskegee Institute, making him the first Black pilot in Arkansas trained as a civilian licensed pilot. According to a biography provided by the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Crenchaw was 0one of two supervising squadron commanders under Chief Pilot Charles A. Anderson. Charles Foxx was the other commanding instructor.
Among Crenchaw’s notable achievements and accolades, he also was responsible for helping launch an aviation program at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
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