Retired Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, died Thursday at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, according to Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford. He was 95 years old.
Montgomery Advertiser reports that Carter was one of only four from the original group of 33 fighter pilots still alive. He was also one of the most vocal about the legacy of the African-American World War II pilots. They’ve been credited for their instrumental part in not only breaking down racial walls in the military, but helping to win the war. Their mission was to protect bombers as they tried to attack enemy troops.
Carter continued to serve in the Air Force after the war before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1969. He then became the associate dean for student services at Tuskegeee University and served in several other positions during his time there.
Carter liked to spend his time traveling and sharing stories about the Tuskegee Airmen. He even spent a total of three weeks, along with the other airmen, advising George Lucas during the pre-production of Red Tails, a film released earlier this year about the pilots. He said the director made them feel like heroes.
“(Lucas) treated us right and fulfilled his promise to make a realistic movie,” Carter said.
Around the time the film was released in January, Carter decided to begin scaling back his appearances for health reasons, but he was still able to speak at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter Annex.
“It’s a thrill for him to do it,” Kurt Carter said about his father at that time. “He’s just honored to be asked. It recharges his batteries.”
Carter had begun to lose his weight and appetite, some say because of his wife’s death last year.
Mayor Ford ordered flags to be flown at half-staff shortly after Carter’s death. He said it was an “appropriate tribute to this national hero, who so valiantly fought fascism abroad and racism at home, and of whom all in Tuskegee are so justly proud.”
Follow Ugonna on Twitter at @ugonnaokpalaoka