WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The year was 1941, and for the first time in our nation’s history, African-American men could train to become military pilots. They would later be recognized as Tuskegee Airmen.
As our Black History Month coverage continues, we spoke with the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman who made Wichita Falls his home after the war.
Cassandra Harris is the daughter of Charlie Alandrus Johnson Junior, a Tuskegee Airman whose love for flying led him right here to Sheppard Air Force Base, a legacy Cassandra says she will always remember
My dad was a part of the four hundred and 77th unit,” Harris said. “The war ended in the Pacific, right before they were to be deployed, so he was not a Red Tail, but my understanding was that he flew bomber planes.”
Though not a Red Tail, Cassandra Harris’ father, Charlie A. Johnson, is a prime example of Black history, a history that played a role in the bigger picture of America.
“He was selected, along with about one thousand other army soldiers, to go to the Tuskegee Institute to train as a pilot,” Harris said.
The timing of Johnson’s enlistment meant he would become a part of the segregated unit in the U.S. Army Air Forces, who later became the first Black military pilots in our country’s history, better known as Tuskegee Airmen.
“To my understanding, even after they were officers, there were issues with, you know, segregated upper officers, or senior officers,” Harris said.
Harris said those obstacles never hindered her father, and even after his time in the armed forces, his love of flying and training led him to college and then to a place that may be familiar to those watching at home.
“Right before he graduated, he was recruited to come up to Wichita Falls, along with other Black men, to become some of the first civilian instructors at Sheppard Air Force Base,” Harris said.
Her father touched many lives during his time at Sheppard, whether in the classroom or on the plane, enjoying teaching so much that others wanted to get involved.
“I remember my mom participating in some of those activities, and then actually she later became a civilian instructor when they started hiring female civilian instructors,” Harris said.
While her father was a history maker, to her he was simply ‘Dad,’ and she’s thankful to tell his story.
“He was a great dad, he really was,” Harris said. “I think it’s great, I’m just sorry it didn’t happen earlier.”
She’s thankful to see history like this be shared, just in time to inspire the next generation of dreamers.
“At any age, never stop, never stop dreaming,” Harris said.
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