C. ALFRED ANDERSON
Known as the “Father of Black Aviation,” C. Alfred Anderson was born in 1907 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Despite having saved enough money to afford flying lessons, Anderson was denied flying lessons because he was African American. Instead, he learned airplane mechanics and picked up tips on how to fly from Caucasian pilots.
He eventually bought his own plane and spent hours taxiing on an airport. Eventually, he worked up his courage to take off and land without formal instruction. In August of 1929, Anderson earned his pilot’s license. With the help of Ernest H. Buehl, Anderson became the first African American to receive an air transport pilot’s license from the Civil Aeronautics Administration in 1932.
In 1933, Anderson completed the first round trip transcontinental flight, from
Atlantic City, NJ to Los Angeles, CA, by African Americans – part of a goodwill tour to encourage African Americans to fly. Anderson taught in the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Howard University in Washington, DC. Because of Anderson’s achievement, a few flight schools begun accepting African Americans. The tour also visited Haiti, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, and South America.
In 1940, Anderson begun teaching black pilots how to fly at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He taught nearly 1,000 pilots at Tuskegee. His students would go on to become the Tuskegee Airmen (the subject of the movie Red Wings directed by George Lucas). One year later, Anderson became the Ground Commander and Chief Instructor at the Tuskegee Institute. Those of Anderson’s students who saw combat flew 1,378 combat missions, destroyed 260 enemy planes, and earned over 150 Flying Crosses. On a visit to the Tuskegee Institute, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt asked to accompany Anderson on a brief flight.
Anderson continued to teach African American and Caucasian civilian and military pilots until 1989. In 1967, he founded Negro Airmen International, the oldest group of African American pilots in the United States. Anderson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013.
Anderson died in 1996 in Tuskegee, Alabama.