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Former Tuskegee Airman Frank Macon dies at 97

November 25, 2020 GMT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — One of only two original, remaining Tuskegee Airmen in Colorado has died.

Frank Macon died Sunday night at his home in Colorado Springs. He was 97.

Air Force Col. Mark Dickerson, president of the Hubert L. “Hooks” Jones Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., made the announcement on Monday.

“The City of Colorado Springs has lost a local icon, and the nation another hero,” Dickerson said in the statement. “The Tuskegee Airmen … are a national treasure. Of the over 14,000 who were part of the Tuskegee experience, less than 50 are believed to remain with us. Their determination to perform with distinction despite challenges both at home and abroad made them true national heroes.”

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Macon knew from a young age that he wanted to be a pilot and took every opportunity to learn about airplanes, The Gazette reported. As a freshman at what is now called Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, Macon designed planes and saved the money he earned working part-time at a local garage for flying lessons.

Macon was a senior in high school when his country entered World War II in 1941. He promptly signed up for the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian organization that aided in the war effort. It was there that he learned about the nation’s first group of African American fighter pilots: the Tuskegee Airmen.

“I didn’t know anything about Tuskegee,” Macon told The Gazette last December. “There was ... a segregated service at that time. Some of the generals and people … were very much against having black pilots.”

Macon eventually enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943. He began his military flight training the next year as part of Tuskegee’s Class 45A.

Despite having a severe head cold, Macon flew a plane during training, which ruptured both of his eardrums. Macon was forced to miss graduation and spent almost a year in recovery. By the time he was well again, World War II had ended.

Macon then worked for 23 years at the Fort Carson military base and retired as head of aircraft maintenance.

“He had a heart for trade,” Dickerson said. “He did a lot with his hands, because he was good at it.”

In 2019, the former airman established the Frank Macon Trades Scholarship Charitable Trust, which provides scholarships to those who want to learn a trade. Its first scholarship will be given in May, Dickerson said.

Macon has donated numerous items to local museums in recent years, including the 1944 Stinson Vultee V-77 “Gullwing” aircraft he spent three years rebuilding with friends in the 1950s. The plane served during World War II with the Royal Canadian Air Force and is now on display at the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs.

Macon will be interred at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in a private service, Dickerson said.