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Tuskegee Airman Speaks at Norfolk State

Tuskeegee Airman visits NSU

Sgt. Thomas W. Newton, a documented original Tuskegee Airman, visited Norfolk State University to tell his story and experiences as part of the history-making Tuskegee Airmen. The event, jointly sponsored by the Hampton Roads Community Empowerment Alliance (HRCEA), took place at the L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center on October 11. 

NSU President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston welcomed Sgt. Newton and his wife, Mary Newton, by exclaiming the importance of history. “History is important. History informs us of our times today, and who we want to be and how we can be in the world.” This sentiment was furthered by Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexandar who spoke on local history curriculums not covering the Tuskegee Airmen, “It is important for us that we come armed with knowledge as we look at our past as a gateway to understand our present, and hopefully creating a path to our future.”

Sgt. Newton joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1946 and was assigned to the 99thFighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group stationed at Lockbourne Amry Air Base in Ohio. Now 95 years old, Sgt. Newton chronologized his career to attendees as a TuskegeeAirmen and the many instances where he and his fellow colleagues faced discrimination, including a segregated training camp. The event concluded with a panel discussion featuring Sgt. Newton, Dr. Phillip Riddick, Bishop Bill Burrell, and Major General Frank Batts where local high school students were able to ask questions.

Despite racism, segregation and discrimination, the Tuskegee Airmen more than proved their loyalty, capability and valor to America during World War II. The all-Black pilot group, who were trained at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, escorted bombers over Sicily, Italy and North Africa. At the end of World War II, none of their planes or ships failed out of the 1,578 missions they were assigned.

When asked what message he would like to give the younger generation, Sgt. Newton said “Always weigh the pros and cons of your choices. Once you make your choice, persevere.”

View the NSU Flickr photo gallery for the Tuskeegee Airmen event from this link.