He’s one of the oldest of the heroic airmen.
It’s been several decades since the first Black military air force, the Tuskegee Airmen, took to the skies in World War II. Although they were at first believed to be inferior and had to fight for their chance to serve, they earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. The Tuskegee Airmen were integral in the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces.
One of the pilots, Asa Newman, the last living Tuskegee Airmen, turned 102 on Thursday in Aurora, Ohio. He received a social distanced celebration fit for a man of honor with a parade, an honor guard, and several proclamations along with his birthday cards.
Earlier this month Home Instead Senior Care in Ravenna, Ohio, requested birthday cards from the nation to commemorate his big day. He received more than 3,800 well wishes from across the country and United Kingdom.
Newman was born in Cleveland on Sept. 24, 1918. He was one of seven children, three sisters and three brothers who also served in the military. The airmen graduated from East High School and the University of Chicago before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1941. He excelled during his service flying to Casablanca, Morocco and Sicily, Italy and rising to the rank of master sergeant before he left the United States Air Force.
After the war, Newman married Virgina and the couple had one child. He went on to work for the IRS for a decade before getting a job at The University of Chicago where he operated a cyclotron, also known as an atom smasher. He is the last remaining survivor of his immediate family, however his niece, Rae Ellen lives locally.
The Director of Community Relations at Home Instead, Paula Baughman, told the Akron Beacon Journal that “Newman always has a smile on his face”. He was delighted at the birthday celebration, waving and saluting each passing car as they passed.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Newman. Thank you for breaking through the barrier for the rest of us!
Photo Credit: Fox 8 News/City of Cleveland