Tuskegee Airman to attend as Lockport honors veterans
By tony Graf Sun-Times Media September 5, 2012 10:10PM
O. Lawton Wilkerson (center) and Louis Irons, both Tuskegee Airmen, stand with a statue of Col. Benjamin Davis at the Irons residence in Olympia Fields. Wilkerson will attend a golf outing for veterans on Saturday in Lockport. | Sun-Times Media file pho
Updated: October 7, 2012 7:56AM
LOCKPORT — A member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of legendary black pilots who broke racial barriers by their service in World War II, will be at Friday’s veterans golf outing in the city.
Lawton Wilkerson, of Markham, will attend as the city honors veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They will receive a free round of golf and dinner at Broken Arrow Golf Club.
The Tuskegee Airmen served in the U.S. Army Air Force, and their excellence and bravery in combat helped pave the way for the eventual integration of the military.
The Lockport Veterans Commission is hosting Friday’s event, aided by sponsorships from the city, Kozol Brothers Distributors, Miller High Life and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Veterans’ families will join them after dinner.
Mayor Dev Trivedi said city officials believe they and Lockport residents “owe something” to the veterans.
“We wanted to let them know our thanks, and give them a welcome to the city of Lockport,” he said.
Earlier this year, Trivedi attended the recording of a local TV show, “In the Know with Bonnie Winfrey,” where members of the Tuskegee Airmen were guests. The program aired in April on Joliet Community Television (Channel 6) and can be viewed online at www.thefaithcast.com.
Wilkerson is a Chicago Heights native who graduated from Bloom High School in 1944 before enlisting. In previous presentations, he has described taking the train to Mississippi for training and having to switch to a segregated car after traveling past the Mason-Dixon Line.
Wilkerson was trained to be a B-25 pilot but was not deployed overseas because the war ended before he could get his orders. He later had a career in radio broadcasting.
The Tuskegee Airmen had a lasting impact on the military after the U.S. Air Force was established in 1947.
“The USAF was the first service to erase the color line, thanks largely to the pioneering efforts and courageous legacy of the African-American airmen who showed their worth in combat in WWII,” according to the website of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
contributed to this report.