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Community Advocacy Organization

Funeral Services set for decorated Tuskegee Airman

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Photo courtesy of Warren Williams

Loving, devoted family and friends along with a grateful nation will say their final goodbyes to

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Jefferson on July 8th and 9th. The acclaimed World War II fighter pilot, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the 1st group of black U.S. military pilots, died on June 22nd at a nursing home in metro-Detroit. He was 100 years old

There will be a viewing on Friday, July 8th at the Cole Funeral home in Detroit- 16100 Schaefer Hwy., from 8 am until 8 pm. The funeral service is set for 11am on Saturday, July 9th, at Hope United Methodist Church at 26275 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield, MI. The family will receive guests starting at 10 am. In keeping with his wishes, Lieutenant Colonel Jefferson will be cremated with his remains to be interred with full military honors at the Great Lakes National Cemetery at 4200 Belford Rd. in Holly, MI.

Photo courtesy of Warren Williams

Alexander Jefferson was born in Detroit on November 15, 1921. He graduated from Chadsey

High School in 1938 and then enrolled in all-black Clark College in Atlanta, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology in the spring of 1942.

After applying but not being accepted for flight training with the U.S. Army Air Corp in

September of ‘42, Jefferson began graduate school at Howard University in Washington D.C.

He was finally called up for military flight training in April of 1943 about four months after the

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

He reported to Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama as one of the first black Americans to be trained as a military pilot. After receiving his ‘wings’ and an officer’s commission, Jefferson was assigned to the 332 nd Fighter group at Ramitelli Airbase in Italy. The black pilots became known as the “Red Tails” because of the distinctive red marking on the tail of their aircraft.

The Red Tails served as fighter escorts to protect U.S. planes on bombing missions against Nazi Luftwaffe fighters.

During his 19th mission over southern France on August 12, 1944, Jefferson and his plane (a P-51 Mustang) were shot down. He parachuted safely to the ground but was captured by German Army troops and put into a Prisoner of War camp. Eight months later, in April of 1945, Jefferson and his fellow American POWs were freed by U.S. armored tank troops led by famed General George Patton. Alexander Jefferson’s exploits as a World War II pilot were

chronicled in the acclaimed book, “Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free!”

Jefferson remained in the Air Force reserve, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1969. He taught science for many years in Detroit public schools before becoming an assistant principal, and retired from DPS with 30 years of service. In 1995, Jefferson was enshrined in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. President George W. Bush personally awarded him a Purple Heart for being wounded when his plane was shot down over southern France during a special ceremony in 2004.

Photo courtesy of Warren Williams

For much of the last two decades of his life, Lieutenant Colonel Jefferson traveled the nation and the world talking about his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman and an educator.

On his 100 th birthday, November 15, 2021, there was a big ceremony to rededicate Alexander Jefferson Field at Detroit’s Rouge Park. And he was also given the KEY to the city by Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallett.

Alexander Jefferson slipped quietly into the eternal realm on the evening of Wednesday, June 22, 2022.He will be remembered as one the ‘greatest’ from the so-called “greatest generation” Americans who survived the Great Depression and helped to keep the world free from the Axis powers by winning World War Two.

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