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George Spencer "Spanky" Roberts

 

Year Inducted: 2017

  • Completed training with the first class of Tuskegee Airmen at the Tuskegee Institute before defending our great nation in the skies
  • Successfully finished the first class and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942 before becoming commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, making him the first African-American commander; one of three times in total he would hold this title during his career
  • Flew approximately 100 combat missions during World War II before resuming command of the 332nd Fighter Group in 1945
  • In 1950, was the first African-American Commander of a racially-integrated Air Force unit and became a jet qualified pilot before assisting in the Korean War
  • Appointed as the Director of Materiel for the 313th Air Division in Okinawa, Japan and served as the Air Force Logistics Command in 1963
  • Served as Deputy Director of Logistics for fighter operations in Vietnam and space missiles and logistics in the Pacific Ocean area
  • Awards and accolades include the Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal, seven commendation medals, and two Presidential unit citations

Born on September 24, 1918 in London, West Virginia, George Spencer Roberts became one of the first class of cadets to complete training at the Tuskegee Institute before defending our great nation in the skies.

Roberts graduated from high school at fifteen and went on to enroll in West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University) where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Arts. He continued his education and received his teaching certificate before enrolling in the Civilian Pilot Training Program Unit III in 1939. Roberts entered preflight training with the first class of thirteen African-American trainees at the Tuskegee Institute. He was among five trainees who successfully finished the first class and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942. He became commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, making him the first African-American commander, one of three times in total he would hold this title during his career.

His military occupation would see him engaging in dangerous missions which drew brave and heroic actions, including missions over Italy and Yugoslavia and flying reconnaissance over Austria and Germany. Roberts would fly approximately 100 combat missions during World War II before resuming command of the 332nd Fighter Group in 1945. His knowledge served others well when he became Professor of Air Science and Tactics at the Tuskegee Institute.

In 1950, Roberts was the first African-American Commander of a racially integrated Air Force unit and he became a jet qualified pilot before assisting in the Korean War. His talents extended beyond flying, as evidenced by his appointment as the Director of Materiel for the 313th Air Division in Okinawa, Japan and his time serving as the Air Force Logistics Command in 1963.

He worked on the F-104 Freedom Fighter project at McClellan Air Force base while later serving as the Deputy Director of Logistics for fighter operations in Vietnam and space missiles and logistics in the Pacific Ocean area.

Roberts retired from the military in 1968 with the rank of Colonel. He continued to serve his community proudly by participating on various boards and committees in the Sacramento area where he lived with his wife, Edith.

His awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal, seven commendation medals, two Presidential unit citations. In addition, he was named honored pioneer at the “Black Wings” exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in 1982. The state of West Virginia proudly thanks him for his contributions to aviation.


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