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The legacy of a noted Tuskegee Airman flight instructor and native Arkansan was celebrated Nov. 9 at a special fundraiser benefiting the academy named for him.

The 100/10 Commemorative Celebration of the Milton Pitts Crenchaw Aviation Training Academy Inc., held at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock, paid homage to the late Crenchaw during a year that marked what would have been his 100th birthday, as well as the 10th anniversary of the academy's existence. "MPCATA," as it's known, exposes youth to the world of aviation and encourages them to pursue careers in aero sciences and aeronautics.

Pamela Smith was mistress of ceremonies for the dinner and program, held in the museum's third-floor auditorium and preceded by a silent auction on the first floor. Speakers were First Officer Pilot Andre Slay, a Little Rock native, amputee and marathon runner; and Army Col. Erica Ingram, first black female colonel in the Arkansas National Guard. Zellie Orr, Tuskegee Airmen historian, spoke via video.

Gallery: 100/10 Commemorative Celebration of the Milton Pitts Crenchaw Aviation Training Academy Inc.

Capt. Lou Freeman, the first black pilot for Southwest Airlines and the first black chief pilot of a major airline in the United States, was the evening's keynote speaker. Special guest speaker Thomas Vaughns, 99, a flight mechanic for the Tuskegee Airmen, delighted the audience with words of wisdom. Attendees also saw part of a video that told the story of Crenchaw and heard a report on the academy's cadets by Tami East.

Dr. Michele Wright, MPCATA president and board chairwoman, and Gwen Haniff, a member of the academy's advisory council, presented six awards named for Crenchaw and the academy: the Trailblazer Award to Ingram; the Lifetime Achievement Award to Vaughns; the Marlon Green Courage in Aviation Award to Freeman; and three other awards to recipients in absentia.

Subjects of the 2012 movie Red Tails, the Tuskegee Airmen were a group of black fighter and bomber pilots that distinguished themselves during World War II. "Red tails" referred to the distinguishing color of the tails of the group's planes ... models of which served as table centerpieces for the evening.

High Profile on 11/17/2019

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