ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The oldest living original Tuskegee Airman died on Saturday.

Willie Rogers was 101.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman acknowledged Rogers’ death on Twitter.


During World War II, the U.S. military selected Tuskegee Institute to train pilots because of its facilities and engineering and technical instructors, as well as a year-round flying climate. The first civilian pilot training program students completed their instruction in May 1940. The Tuskegee program was then expanded and became the center for African-American aviation during the war.

The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton established the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala., to commemorate the airmen’s heroism.

Tuskegee Airman Wallace Higgins was presented with the congressional gold medal in a New York Veteran's Day ceremony, one of five Tuskegee Airmen who were honored.