Minnesota's last member of the Tuskegee Airmen died in Duluth late Thursday night. He was 93.
The Duluth News Tribune has the story of Joseph Philip Gomer, who is remembered with a life-sized bronze statue at the Duluth International Airport inscribed with this quote: “We’re all Americans. That’s why we chose to fight. I’m as American as anybody. My black ancestors were brought over against their will to help build America. My German ancestors came over to build a new life. And my Cherokee ancestors were here to greet all the boats.”
He enlisted in the Army in 1942, and was sent to Tuskegee, Ala., for flight training in the experimental all-black outfit that would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
He was honored by two presidents. He received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. During the ceremony in the Capitol rotunda, President George W. Bush saluted the Tuskegee Airmen “to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities” of the past.
Gomer was invited to the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.
“I fought World War II segregated, I trained segregated, I flew segregated and I returned segregated,” Gomer said in 2011. “But today we have President Obama, and never in my life did I dream that I would someday have a black commander in chief.”
In his obituary, the Associated Press said Gomer flew dozens of combat missions over northern Africa, Italy and Germany. The Tuskegee Airmen are widely credited with helping to integrate the Air Force in 1948.