TUSKEGEE, Ala. —
Retired Lt. Col. Herbert Eugene Carter, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who broke color barriers in World War II, has died after a long career in aviation and education.
Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford said Carter died Thursday afternoon at East Alabama Medical Center in nearby Opelika. He was 95.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators in the U.S. military. During World War II they were trained as a segregated unit in central Alabama at Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. Carter was in the first group that trained for the 99th Fighter Squadron.
After being admitted to the Army Air Corps, they were prohibited from fighting alongside white counterparts and faced severe prejudice, yet went on to become one of World War II’s most respected fighter squadrons, successfully escorting countless bombers during the war.
Carter flew 77 missions and crashed landed only once.
After the war, Carter served as a professor of air science and Air Force ROTC commander at Tuskegee University from 1950-1955 and as professor of aerospace studies from 1965-1969.
“He fought for freedom from tyranny internationally and for freedom from discrimination at home in America. His commitment to excellence and determination to succeed will set the standard for the next generations of Tuskegee Airmen,” university President Gilbert L. Rochon said Friday.
Last year, Carter was one of Tuskegee Airmen who helped producer George Lucas celebrate the opening of his movie about the pilots, “Red Tails.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling that finally there is some recognition that’s being done in a manner that is credible to the Tuskegee Airmen,” Carter said at the time.
According to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum in Detroit, 992 African-American pilots graduated from training at Tuskegee Army Air Field between 1942 and 1946. Fewer than 100 are still alive, museum President Brian Smith said Friday.
Smith said Carter enjoyed telling the story of the famed aviators. “It’s a piece of history that is silent now,” he said.
Carter’s wife, Mildred Hemmons Carter, was also a pilot. She died in October 2011.
Tuskegee’s mayor ordered flags in the town flown at half-staff. Funeral arrangements are pending.