PITTSBURGH – County Executive Rich Fitzgerald was joined by members of the Western Pennsylvania Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of Greater Pittsburgh, Inc., federal, state and local officials as well as other honored guests in unveiling the largest Tuskegee Airmen Recognition Exhibit in any U.S. airport today at Gate A in the airport concourse.
“It is absolutely fitting that the recognition exhibit of the Western Pennsylvania Tuskegee Airmen is located in the Pittsburgh International Airport,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “There are very few sites in our region that can claim such a rich history of aviation as our airport. We pay honor to these brave men and women through our recognition of them, and this exhibit allows passengers from around the country and the world to learn about these Western Pennsylvanians who contributed to our victory in World War II, and the very freedoms that all of us cherish today.”
The exhibit honors and recognizes the legacy of Western Pennsylvania’s Tuskegee Airmen, the largest contingent of the airmen in the United States. Designed and installed by R.L. Smith Graphics, Ohio, the ribbon cutting kicks off a four-day Tuskegee Airmen Dedication which will include an off-Broadway play, “Black Angels Over Tuskegee,” at the Byham Theater on September 14, and the dedication of the largest outdoor Tuskegee Airmen memorial at the Sewickley Cemetery on September 15 at 2:00 p.m.
“This recognition exhibition will be seen by thousands over the next few years and will bring to life the dedication and sacrifices of the Western Pennsylvania Tuskegee Airmen,” said Regis D. Bobonis, Sr., historian and Chair of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region, Inc. “Our history books are woefully lacking when it comes to the story of these men and women who piloted and supported the ‘Red Tails.’”
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African American pilots and support personnel who fought in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps. This was the first unit of African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, in much of the United States, African Americans were still subjected to Jim Crow Laws and the American military itself was racially segregated. Legal and social prejudice prevented the Airmen from flying combat missions. Despite their adversities, the Tuskegee Airmen flew with distinction. In 2007, 350 Tuskegee Airmen and their widows received the Congressional Gold Medal.
The recognition exhibit includes photographic images of the Airmen and one woman, Rose Mae Willis Alford of Beaver County. Historical narratives on glass plaques tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. A list of almost 100 Airmen from Western Pennsylvania is also included. One wall depicts the illustrious careers of several Airmen who, after the war, became doctors, attorneys, pilots, teachers and business owners.
“Our company is proud to have been asked to assist in the development of this historic exhibit,” said Ron Smith of R.L. Smith Graphics. “Hopefully, this exhibit will be a constant reminder to air travelers of the significance of what these men and women did and their rightful place in history.” R.L. Smith Graphics of Boardman, Ohio, is a producer of numerous veterans’ and military murals and displays throughout the United States.
Contributors to the airport exhibit ribbon cutting and to other Tuskegee Airmen dedication activities include State Farm, Sewickley Car Store, Rome Monument, Rock of Ages, the Borough of Sewickley, Borough of Sewickley Heights, Quaker Valley School District, Copeland Funeral Home, Ross’ Shop ‘n Save, Allegheny County, Congressman Keith Rothfus, Congressman Mike Doyle, State Senator Matt Smith, Allegheny County Airport Authority, Sewickley Cemetery, St. James Catholic Church, Sewickley United Methodist Church, Christian Motorcycle Association, and various veteran organizations.
Because the location of the exhibit is on the air side of the Pittsburgh International Airport, it is only accessible to flyers. The actual memorial in Sewickley Cemetery is open to the general public.
September 8-15, 2013 has also been designated as “Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region, Inc. Week” in Allegheny County by the County Executive. A presentation of the proclamation also occurred at today’s event.
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