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 William Jenifer Powell

William Jenifer Powell

Birth
Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky, USA
Death 12 Jul 1942 (aged 44)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot 84, 4/I
Memorial ID 8553438 · View Source
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Aviator, Social Reformer. He founded the nation's first all-black flying school, launched the nation's first all-black air shows, and inspired African Americans to break racial limits and pursue careers in aviation. He invested his life savings to finance Los Angeles' Bessie Coleman Aero Club; and he recruited and trained some of the future Tuskegee Airmen, the World War II pilots whose segregated squadron would destroy 260 German planes and damage another 148. A Lieutenant in the United States Army during World War I, on the last day of that conflict he inhaled poison gas that left him with lifelong lung damage. In 1927, three months after Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, Powell took his first airplane ride and his life course was set. He sold his gas stations and headed for Los Angeles to enroll in the Warren School of Aeronautics, the only aviation school that would accept him. In 1929, he joined forces with Irvin E. Wells and James Herman Banning, a barnstormer from Iowa and the nation's first licensed black male pilot, and the three founded the Bessie Coleman Aero Club. Their flying team, called the Blackbirds, staged "All-Negro Air Shows" during the early 1930s. In 1934, he wrote a book, "Black Wings," which promoted black-owned and operated commercial airlines, training schools and aircraft manufacturers. The following year, he produced a documentary film, "Unemployment, the Negro and Aviation" to inspire future airmen; and he sponsored scholarships for black youths who wanted to learn to fly. Sadly, he did not live to witness the heroism of his most distinguished proteges, the Tuskegee Airmen, dying in 1942.

Bio by: Shiver


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Shiver
  • Added: 24 Mar 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8553438
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Jenifer Powell (27 Jul 1897–12 Jul 1942), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8553438, citing Los Angeles National Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .