Willie Rogers, the oldest surviving member of the original Tuskegee Airman has died at the age of 101 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Rev. Kenny Irby, the pastor at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church told the Associated Press that Rogers died Friday evening.
Rogers lived in a senior apartment complex in downtown St. Petersburg, and walked the short distance every Sunday to services at the church. He lived in St. Petersburg for the last 50 years of his life.
Willie Rogers was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and was a part of the 100th Air Engineer Squad and also served with the Red Tail Angels.
During a mission in Italy in January 1943, Rogers was shot in both the leg and the stomach.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, his own children weren’t even aware their father was part of the first African-American military aviation squadron in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces until 2012.
They were aware he served in World War II but were not aware that he was an original Tuskegee airman, a secret he kept in part because he worked on the ground in logistics and administration and not in the sky.
President George W. Bush awarded Rogers with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.