Local Tuskegee Airman to sign book at Palmer High School

By Jay Smith
Special to Life After 50

History. It is what shapes us, our country, our past. It shapes us, because it shows us how things were and how they changed. And things do change. It is the natural progression of time. But, sometimes an extra nudge is needed.

Take erosion – if things are not changed, the eroding continues. Or social injustice – people have to step up and take a side and do things, in order to bring about change. There are some people who call others extraordinary, because they help change the status quo. Franklin J. Macon is such a person.

Frank struggled through dyslexia when he was young, in a time when that disorder, was really not identified. He overcame his ‘problem’ and learned how to fly and became one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Now, that’s history!

Along his life travels, he was inducted into the CSHS/Palmer Alumni Hall of Fame in 2016. There are only a little more than 110 of those folks out of the more than 41,000 graduates from that school. Once again, history!

For those who are not aware, the “experiment” at Tuskegee was to train African American pilots. In the early part of the 20th century, segregation was rampant. Many, regardless of their education or training, were only hired to hold menial jobs like porters, waiters, gardeners and the like. I’m sure many of you remember the 1960s and all of the civil unrest. It was people in that time, (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others) who helped reshape the nation’s thinking about people of color.

Twenty some years earlier, there were young volunteers enlisting in the U. S. military to serve their country and they were all colors. Many of them were in the 17 to 25 year-old range and many of those, never came home alive. A huge reason why that ‘age’ was and still is referred to as “The Greatest Generation” ever! Some of them, went to Tuskegee, distinguished themselves as pilots and ended up shooting down the first jets used by the enemy. Imagine, a prop plane chasing and shooting down a jet. Again, history made!

Mr. Macon is a delightful fellow to talk with and a joy to listen to. He looks at what his life was, as just what happened. He is a most humble individual. His message is for all to do their best and to keep learning. As he tells it, he repeats the Tuskegee Motto, “Aim high, Believe in yourself, Use your brain, Never quit, Be ready to go and Expect to win.”

Recently, he had his book published, “I Wanted To Be A Pilot: The Making of a Tuskegee Airman” and it is available on Amazon.com. It was a most enjoyable read. The telling of his childhood – dealing with and beating dyslexia (more like going around it) and his tales of mischief with or without others, his family and on into History!

Macon will be at the Palmer Alumni summer function, an ice cream social on July 13 from 1 to 3 p m. at Palmer High School in the Eagle Wing.

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