Remembering Brigadier General Charles McGee

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Emily Rupert
  • Air University Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Charles McGee was one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen and died at 102 on Jan. 16, 2022. He joined the military at a time when becoming a pilot as an African American was inconceivable. 

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a new pilot program was created to allow African Americans to train and become pilots. Two days after getting married, he received orders and headed to Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama. McGee's career took him from Alabama and on to three major wars; World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.

After flying with fighter missions in Korea, McGee moved to Montgomery, Alabama, with his family. He attended Air University's Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base and was in class 53B. McGee would give back to AU by volunteering at speaking engagements such as the Gathering of Eagles at Air Command and Staff College. 

McGee retired from service as a Colonel in 1973, having had several leadership positions and flying 409 combat missions across the three wars. He was awarded a Legion of Merit on two occasions, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, and many others.

He used his retirement to return to college, serving as a leader for the Boy Scouts while also promoting the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. In 2020 McGee received a promotion to Brigadier General a few weeks after turning 100.

"Brig Gen Charles McGee was one of the most remarkable men I have ever met in my life," said  Dr. Daniel Haulman, retired USAF historian. "The first thing I think about when talking about General McGee was his eagerness and devotion to serve his country, which he did with distinction in three wars, and to see it succeed."