Theodore Lumpkin Jr, one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of the second world war, has died from complications of the coronavirus, days before his 101st birthday.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black pilots in the segregated US military and among the most respected fighter pilots of the second world war.
California has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected nearly 22 million in the US and killed 368,599.
Lumpkin was drafted in 1942 and assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron in Tuskegee, Alabama, which later helped escorted bombers in Europe. Lumpkin’s eyesight wasn’t good enough to be a pilot but he was an intelligence officer who briefed pilots on missions, according to the Los Angeles Times, which confirmed his death through his son, Theodore Lumpkin III.
Lumpkin’s wife, Georgia, told the Times that he didn’t talk much about his experiences with the airmen.
“We were married for a number of years until I heard about them,” she said. “When I realized who these guys were and what they’d done, I was just overcome at how much they persevered. They did not bow down. They achieved things that detractors said they couldn’t, weren’t capable of doing.”
After the war, Lumpkin earned an undergraduate sociology degree at the University of Southern California, became a social worker with Los Angeles county and after retiring went into a second career in real estate.
In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were collectively awarded the congressional gold medal. Lumpkin also was among the surviving airmen invited to attend the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.
Lumpkin is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, several grandchildren and a great-grandchild.