By Conway Jones Lt. Colonel James Warren, USAF (Retired), is one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the Black aviators who were trained as flight officers in the Army Air Corps in World War II. At age 87, he has just earned his private pilot’s certificate. Colonel Warren has always been one of the firsts. He was awarded his navigator wings at Hondo Army Air Field, Texas in 1944. He was a part of the 162 Army Air Corp Negro officers who were arrested for demanding lawful entry into the white officer’s club at Freeman Field, Indiana. He was also on the first C-141 sent to Gia Lam Viet Nam on Feb. 12, 1973, to bring home prisoners of war. Colonel Warren escorted Colonel Fred Cheery, USAF, a Black fighter pilot who had been held prisoner in Viet Nam for 7 years, five months. Warren is also the author of “Tuskegee Airmen Mutiny at Freeman Field,” which details the battle to end segregation and discrimination in the 477th Bombardment Group at Freeman Field, Indiana. Nine years before Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks refused to obey the busing laws in Montgomery, Alabama, the 477th BG was the first group to challenge a major department of the U.S. government on civil rights. “Our actions at Freeman Field helped influence president Harry S. Truman Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military services in 1948”, said Colonel Warren. He retired from the Air Force in 1978, having accumulated 12,000 flying hours. He is especially proud of his most recent accomplishment, earning his private pilot license. “It has always been my dream to get my pilot license,” he said. “It took me over two and a half years complete my flight training, but I got it done. This is my message to our young people today. You can do anything you want. You just have to want it bad enough.” Colonel Warren took Xanthia, his wife of 60 years, on his first flight after getting his license. “Jim has been a ‘go-getter’ all his life,” she said. “If he wants something, he will go after it with a passion. That’s why I married him.”
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