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BLACK AMERICANS IN FLIGHT @30

Posted on August 12, 2020 in Media Releases

Thursday, August 13, 2020, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the formal dedication ceremony that unveiled the Black Americans In Flight mural that hangs in Terminal One (T1) at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL). In 2014, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch named it The Best Mural in the newspaper’s The Go! List for that year. Critic Calvin Wilson called the mural, “An affirmation that heroes come in all colors.

The five panel mural is eight feet in height and runs 51 feet in length. The art work pays tribute to African-American Achievements in Aviation from 1917 onward. The historic mural includes 75 portraits, 18 aircrafts, five unit patches and one spacecraft.

The efforts to create this unique mural were launched with the formation of the Committee for the Aviation Mural Project Success (CAMPS) in 1984. In 1986, CAMPS commissioned St. Louis artist Spencer Taylor. He was tasked with creating a mural to initially honor St. Louis African-American pilots that flew in World War II, also known as Tuskegee Airmen. Enlisted to help Taylor with the mural was Solomon Thurman, who at the time was also a local-based artist. Today, he is the co-owner of St. Louis’ 10th Street Gallery. But the final piece is so much more. It’s the story of African-Americans in aviation and the history they made. However, both men will always be remembered for their distinctive tribute to a special group of aviators located at STL. 

Some of those that are part of this very unique mural include:

Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. – On September 2, 1941, he became the first African-American to solo an aircraft as an officer of the U.S. Army Air Corp.

Capt. Wendell O. Pruitt – This St. Louis native was one-half of the famed “Gruesome Twosome.” Capt. Pruitt along with Capt. Lee Archer are considered the most successful pair of Tuskegee pilots in terms of air victories. Both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Capt. Marcella A. Hayes – She is the first African-American woman to complete U.S. Army pilot training in 1979. Following her training, she became an Army helicopter pilot.

Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr. – He is the first African-American candidate for NASA’s space program.

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D. – He was a specialist aboard the fatal launch of the Challenger space shuttle in January of 1986.

Mae C. Jemison, M.D. – She is the first African-American female astronaut.

In 2017, STL held an event commemorating the 27th anniversary of the murals dedication. Due to COVID-19, no formal ceremony or event will take place this year. However, just under ten months ago, Lt. Colonel Marcella Ng (formerly Capt. Marcella Hayes), on a brief visit to St. Louis; got her first chance to see her portrait within the mural. She also had the opportunity to meet one of the artists, Solomon Thurman. Their story can be found at the STL website’s Photo of The Week at: https://www.flystl.com/newsroom/stl-news/2019/proud-pilot-proud-painter-stl-photo-of-the-week .

All the panels of the Black Americans In Flight mural can be seen online at:
http://www.artoftravelstl.com/terminal-1

Caption for artwork: This is the second of five panels that make up the Black Americans In Flight mural located on the ground floor of Terminal One at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. This specific panels highlights the servicemen of the 332nd Fighter Group in World War II or as they are better known, the Tuskegee Airmen.