One of the three surviving members of the famous all-Black Tuskegee Airmen in Arizona died.
The Archer-Ragsdale chapter of Tuskegee Airmen confirmed in a news release that Robert Ashby died at his home in the Phoenix suburb of Sun City on Friday. He was 95 years old.
Born in 1926 in Yemassee, South Carolina, Ashby enlisted at the age of 17 in the Army Air Corps, which later became the U.S. Air Force. He was called to active duty after graduating from high school in Jersey City, New Jersey. By December 1944, Ashby went to Tuskegee, Alabama, for aeronautical training.
Due to segregation policies, two all-white flying units rejected Ashby after he was sent to Japan. For the next five years, he served in all-Black units.
In the 1950s, while stationed in Korea and Europe, Ashby continued to serve. He flew various aircraft, including the B-47 bomber, and later became an instructor.
By July 1965, Lt. Col. Ashby had retired.
Ashby, who studied at the University of Maryland and UCLA, continued his career in commercial aviation. He became a United Airlines Flight Instructor and wrote a training programme for 747 aircraft.
He began working for Frontier Airlines in 1973, where he rose to the rank of captain. He flew with the airline until he retired in 1986. Ashby is believed to be the first Black commercial airline pilot to reach the mandatory retirement age of 60, according to officials with the Arizona Tuskegee Airmen.
Ashby has survived his wife, Dorina, and three sons. Funeral services will be private as a result of the pandemic.