Tuskegee Airman to Fly to Edge of Space
Le Roy Gillead Will Ride On XCOR "Legacy Flight"
Mojave, CA 21 Feb 2009: In recognition of African American contributions to equal rights and aviation, Mojave, CA-based XCOR Aerospace presented Tuskegee Airman Le Roy Gillead, of San Francisco, with a ticket for a ride to the edge of space. The presentation took place during the University of California Riverside's 5th annual celebration of the Tuskegee Airmen, titled, "Voices of the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen."
"XCOR's efforts to make space flight affordable are made possible only because we have inherited a tradition of freedom and aviation excellence," XCOR CEO and founder, Jeff Greason said at the ceremony. "We established the Legacy Flight program to thank those persons and groups that have helped build this heritage. Our first award goes to the Tuskegee Airmen who volunteered to defend our nation even though they were treated as second-class citizens at home. Their outstanding performance in combat paved the way for the 1948 order by President Harry Truman to desegregate the nation's armed services and this in turn was an important step forward for civil rights within the United States."
Greason presented the Legacy Flight ticket to Le Roy Gillead, who was one of the 401 original Tuskegee Airmen. Gillead served as a triple-rated navigator, bombardier, and aerial gunner and was assigned to the 477th Bombardment Group, which flew the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber. He was involved in the Freeman Field Mutiny, in which black officers faced court martial for attending a segregated white officers' club.
Gillead was put forward for the Legacy Flight by Tuskegee Airmen Western Region President Col. Ralph Smith (USAF-Ret). "I am honored to accept this award on behalf of my comrades in the Tuskegee Airmen," Gillead said. "When we volunteered, none of us knew exactly what the future would hold. I certainly didn't expect it to lead to space."
Greason and Gillead thanked the Smith Family/Concerned Citizens Cultural Foundation for Minority Affairs (SCMEB Foundation and UC Riverside Librarian Dr. Ruth Jackson for hosting the Tuskegee Airmen celebration.
"Dr. Jackson deserves a great deal of credit for keeping the memory of the Tuskegee Airmen vibrant," Greason said. "She was the driving force behind making the UC Riverside Libraries the home of the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive."
The Archive celebrates the pilots and others who broke the race barrier for African Americans in military aviation and chronicles not only their military careers, but their entire lives. It is considered the premier, full-life research archive in the United States that is dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen.
"People sometimes forget that the achievements of the men and women of the Tuskegee Airmen did not end with World War II," said Dr. Jackson. "Many went on to illustrious military careers while others achieved high distinction in politics, law, medicine, education, the arts, business and other fields."
"We do all we can to preserve their memories and their lives for future generations," she said. "The award of the Legacy Flight to Mr. Gillead on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen will help their memory fly even higher -- to the edge of space."
XCOR will fly Mr. Gillead to the edge of space aboard its Lynx suborbital vehicle. The vehicle is expected to make its first flight in 2010, and commercial operations will begin after successful completion of its test flight program. Training and screening will be provided by XCOR's General Sales Agent, RocketShip Tours.
XCOR Aerospace is a California corporation located in Mojave, California. The company is in the business of developing and producing safer, reliable and reusable rocket-powered vehicles and propulsion systems that enable affordable access to space.
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