Undeterred by wartime segregation, and unbowed by continued racial prejudice in post-war America, pioneering African-American aviator and inventor, William L. Booker, died of natural causes on November 30th, 2013 in Kirkland, WA, at the age of 90. Booker was one of the few remaining “Tuskegee Airmen;” a legendary group of all-black fighter pilots and bomber crews that broke through racial barriers to achieve numerous victories in the skies over WWII Germany. Later in life, he often encouraged children and students with the following admonition:
‘Take advantage of the many opportunities you now have, those that my generation could not have foreseen, even in our wildest dreams. Remember that there are those of us who struggled to make this a reality for you, because we cared, not only for ourselves, but for you.”
After his military service, Booker continued a life of achievement and excellence. His story is one of hard work, innovation, and a clear dedication to duty. According to his obituary in the Kirkland Reporter:
“Booker served as a Navigator and Flight Engineer on the B-24 and B-25 bombers with the 477th Bomber Squadron based at Godman Field, Kentucky. World War II ended before the 477th could be deployed for combat. He later earned a bachelor’s of science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Denver and his first work out of college was with the U.S. Dept of the Interior where he helped develop dams and other major infrastructure projects in Montana and Idaho.”
“Booker then moved to Bremerton in the 1950s to design electrical systems for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. In 1954, Boeing hired Booker to create electrical applications for some of the country’s most vital defense systems that still remain in service today. These included the massive B-52 long-range bomber and the Airborne Warning and Control System (see above), the distinctive looking dish-shaped radar employed atop Navy and Air Force surveillance aircraft.”
“In 1987, Booker was granted a patent for inventing an electrical contact retainer (shown above) that was used in Boeing aircraft. He retired in 1988 after 34 years with Boeing. After retiring, Booker continued to lead an active life. In addition to spending time with his grandchildren, he bred thoroughbred horses and served as president of the Sam Bruce Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.”
Bottom Line: We sincerely mourn the passing of Mr. Booker, a positive and inspiring role model for all Americans. We give our sincerest thanks and appreciation too, for his selfless military service to our country, the inventive and productive work he performed while working for Boeing, and for his contributions to American aviation. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., Sam Bruce Chapter 11044 Durland Ave. N. in Seattle. Donations can also be made online and additional information on the Tuskegee Airmen can be found at the group’s website HERE. Finally, we thought you’d enjoy this short video, reminding us all about the courage and determination of “Greatest Generation” heroes, such as Mr. Booker. Enjoy!