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President’s Post-convention letter to members

President’s letter


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We just concluded a very successful 2019 National Convention.  The highlights included. Thirty-five (35) individuals being honored and recognized as joining the Lonely Eagles Chapter during the Lonely Eagles Ceremony at the start of the convention.

Clarence Johnson, Director Diversity Management Operations Center, Defense Human Resources Activity, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness gave an overview of the Department of Defense diversity efforts.  Trent Dudley, Deputy Director Air Force Operations Group from Headquarters USAF gave a presentation on demographic trends in the Department of Defense in general and specifics about rated demographics in the Air Force.  He also highlighted the military seminars and panels that were going to be conducted at the convention in parallel with the TAI business sessions.

Fourteen (14) Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA’s) attended the convention.  There were also three (3) surviving spouses.

The AFJROTC Cadets from Zebulon B. Vance High School gave an excellent report on their efforts in executing the Tuskegee Airmen Ribbon Program,

Corporate sponsors in attendance:

American Airlines as the Platinum Sponsor hosted the Heritage Luncheon.

  • American Airlines has provided Frequent Flyer Miles for DOTA travel

Southwest Airlines sponsored the Youth Program and the Youth Luncheon.

  • Southwest also sponsors the Continuing the Legacy Program annually
  • Southwest provides travel vouchers used for youth and DOTA travel

The Department of Defense sponsored the Military-Diversity Luncheon.

The Rosen Centre Hotel and Resort hosted the Welcome Reception

USAA sponsored the attendee name badges and convention bags

This year we again repeated the change to the footprint of the convention that moved the entertainment to the Welcome Reception which was held in the Exhibit Area to allow attendees to mix and mingle with our sponsors.  Melinda Doolittle, who was a finalist in the 6th season of American Idol and has become a very successful R&B performer, put on a show that had everyone in attendance rocking.  We hope to have her join us in 2020 in San Antonio.  At the opening of the Welcome Reception, I presented one of my Presidential Awards to Harris Rosen, the founder of Rosen Hotels & Resorts and serves as the company’s president and chief operating officer.

Melvin Morris, Vietnam War Congressional Medal of Honor (MOH) Recipient was the Military-Diversity Luncheon speaker.  He was one of the first Army Green Berets and received the MOH for his valorous actions on Sept. 17, 1969, while commanding the Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang. Then-Staff Sgt. Morris led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade and single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned his battalion from a series of bunkers. Staff Sgt. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties but did not stop until he reached safety.  He spoke to the luncheon attendees about how important it was to him to reach out to youth.

The recipients of the Tuskegee Airmen Military Awards were announced at the Military-Diversity Luncheon. 

2019 Awards

General Benjamin O. Davis Jr Field Grade Officer Award

  • Major Richelle N.J. Hill (USAF)
    • Chief, Services’ Policy Integration Branch
    • Headquarters U. S. Air Force, Directorate of Services (AF/A1S)
    • Pentagon, Washington District of Colombia

Captain Robert W. Williams Company Grade Officer

  • Captain Tamiko T. Gheen (USAF)
  • Flight Commander, TRICARE Operations & Patient Administration
  • 375th Medical Support Squadron
  • Scott AFB, Illinois 62225

Chief Master Sergeant Fred Archer Senior NCO Award

  • Senior Master Sergeant Eric A. Simon (USAF)
  • Program Manager, Maintenance Manpower
  • Directorate of Logistics, Force Protection, and Engineering (ACC/A4)
  • Headquarters, Air Combat Command
  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia

Senior Master Sergeant Margaret Frances Barbour NCO Award

  • Technical Sergeant Terrance D. Cooley (USAF)
  • NCOIC, Commander’s Support Staff
  • 837th Cyberspace Operations Squadron
  • Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas

The Heritage Luncheon featured DOTA’s James Harvey and Harry Stewart as speakers.  They were members of the Tuskegee Airmen team that won the 1949 US Air Force initial Top Gun competition.  They talked about the team selection, preparation for the competition, and their experiences during the competition.  Richard Baugh told the audience about the fact that the winning trophy was lost, and the results not recorded in USAF documentation.  Historian Zellie Orr was able to do research and discover the location of the trophy and obtain recognition for the team from the 332nd Fighter Group.  At the beginning of the luncheon, I presented one of my Presidential Awards to Lt. Gen. (ret) Stayce Harris.

There was a two-day Youth Program for 50 participants.  On Day 1 the youth visited the award-winning Orlando Science Center, participating in multiple hands-on exhibits.  On Day 2 the Central Florida Wing of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducted a hands-on demonstration of several of their STEM Kits with the youth getting to assemble and work with rocket kits.  We have invited the Texas Wing of CAP to join us in 2020 to repeat this very successful youth activity. 

The Youth Luncheon sponsored by Southwest Airlines (SWA) features a trio of their employees as presenters: Hope Stevens, Claude R. Platte Chapter member, Robin Rhodes, San Antonio Chapter member and Sandra Hall, a SWA Flight Attendant with over the top enthusiasm.  They talked about their roles at SWA and answered questions from the audience.  They concluded the luncheon by announcing that 40 attendees of the were winners of $500 Southwest gift cards for future flights.  In attendance were Southwest Airlines employees from a variety of workgroups including flight operations and customer service.

The Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation gave a presentation on their activities and conducted several sessions including one on wealth management during the convention. 

Life Membership Certificates and cards were distributed for 16 individuals at the convention.  Certificates and cards for those not in attendance were given to a member of their chapter or their Region President.  The Charter for the reactivated Lake Charles Louisiana Chapter was presented.

The winners of the Regional and National Awards were:

President’s Award            

Harris Rosen (Founder, President & CEO of Rosen Hotels and Resorts)

Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris (Los Angeles Chapter)

Hope Stevens (Claude R. Platte Chapter)

Karen Price-Ward (Southwest Airlines)

Eastern Region Award     

Jerry Burton (East Coast Chapter)

Central Region Award                  

Darryl Shirley (Greater Cincinnati Chapter/Ohio)

Western Region Award                

Larry Jackson (Archer-Ragsdale Chapter)

Lemuel Custis Award       

“T.J.” Spann (Tidewater Chapter)

Noel Parrish Award                      

Ralph Smith (Los Angeles Chapter)

2019 was not an election year but we are conducting voting on resolutions and the 2020 TAI Financial Plan.  The results will be available after voting concludes on 30 August.

At 3:20 pm on Friday the 16th of August the President of the Lake Charles Louisiana Chapter, Franklin J.P. Augustus, died when his Pitts aerobatic aircraft crashed near the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.  Nancy Parker a New Orleans TV news anchor who was on board the aircraft doing a news story also died.  Franklin Augustus had for over 30 years flown on the airshow circuit as the Drug Fighter, encouraging youth to avoid drugs.  He had been one of the attendees at the convention the previous week.

The reports of officers, committee chairs and region presidents can be found in the Tuskegee Airmen Box online at All members have access to the information in the Box by using the login information provided in the distributed letter.

Our 2020 Convention will be August 6-8, 2020 at the Hilton Palacio Del Rio in San Antonio, Texas.  I hope to see many of you there.


Leon A. Johnson

National President; Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.