Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson Has Died At the Age of 100
Alexander Jefferson, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen that were celebrated during World War II, has died at the age of 100. He was known as one of the first Black aviators to escort World War II bombers in Europe.
“The lieutenant colonel represented the best of our country, of our state and of our city,” says mayoral aide Rochelle Riley. “He was one of the smartest people I’d ever met, a great raconteur.”
The name “Tuskegee Airmen” came from the location of the training base—Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. Jefferson was the last of the surviving vets that began the Detroit chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen in 1972.
As a lifelong Detroit resident, born and raised, one of Jefferson’s major accomplishments was being honored on his 100th birthday with the Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson Plaza, located at Rouge Park—a special place for him: It’s where he flew model airplanes when he was a child.
“Col. Jefferson not only represented the best of Detroit and our nation, he represented the very best of humanity. As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he helped to win the war, and despite spending eight months as a prisoner of war, he emerged with his same kindness and generosity of spirit.,” Mayor Mike Duggan said.
“He came back to Detroit to continue his service as an educator and made a lasting impact on countless young lives. He is profoundly deserving of the recognition he will receive when the plaza named in his honor opens next year. Our city and our world are better places because of Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson,” he added.
Many from his past paid tribute to his death.
“We’ve lost a great American patriarch, a hero and African American man who withstood racial prejudice, who did a job almost perfectly in fighting the war, World War II and he should be remembered for his service to the freedom of the United States,” said Dr. Brian Smith, president and treasurer of the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum in Detroit.
“Col. Jefferson is a true hero. He was larger than life. He led an exemplary life. Everything he did was giving back to the community, “ said Kenneth Thomas, Detroit chapter president of the Tukegee Airmen. “When he came back, he came back to another war. A war of segregation. He fought that with all he could and giving back to the youth through his teaching with the Public School System, as well as motivating youth into the world of aviation and aerospace.
Jefferson holds a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Congressional Gold Medal. After his missions, Jefferson became a postal carrier and then decided to get his Master of Education to teach science to elementary students. He retired from Detroit elementary schools as an assistant principal in 1979.
To learn more about Jefferson, check out the video below here he shares his experiences serving during the Second World War as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Jefferson’s family and friends at this time.