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NYC’s MTA honors legendary Tuskegee Airmen during Black History Month

Tuskegee Airmen (Signaleer/WikiCommons)

To celebrate Black History Month, the MTA honored a legendary group of African-American war heroes who later in life extended their service from the battlefields to New York City’s transit system.

MTA New York City Transit’s Veterans Employee Resource Group, a newly formed group dedicated to empowering employee veterans working in the city’s transit system, held a tribute ceremony on Friday for the Tuskegee Airmen, the legendary 332nd fighter group of African-American pilots who served in World War II.

The ceremony was held at the the Tuskegee Airmen Bus Depot in Harlem, originally known as the 100th Street Bus Depot, before being renamed in 2012 in honor of the famed veterans. Photos of the namesake military men hang on the Wall of Fame in the depot’s lobby.

“We are thrilled to honor this legendary group of national heroes, our depot namesake, for our first Black History Month event,” said Manolin Tirado, chairperson of the NYC Transit Veterans Employee Resource Group. “African-American veterans and Transit employees have made critical, selfless contributions to protecting Americans and helping to move New York City, which makes today’s ceremony particularly special.”

Following their military contributions during World War II, 12 of the Tuskegee veterans moved to Harlem and worked within the New York City transit system, then known as the New York City Board of Transportation (NYCBOT).

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Reginald T. Brewster – Joined the NYCBOT as a clerk in 1948 while attending law school.

Victor A. Collymore – Worked for NYCBOT from 1947 to 1952.

Conrad A. DeSandies – Worked for NYC Transit in 1959 as a maintainer’s helper.

Harry R. Dickenson – Worked for NYC Transit from 1984 to 1989 as deputy chief engineer.

John R. Freeman – Retired as a manager, Operating Authority (OA) Surface.

Noel R. Harris – Began his career at NYCBOT in 1948 as an auditor for the Staten Island Depot.

Oscar W. Hawkins – Joined NYCBOT in 1949, holding titles of towerman, train dispatcher, train master, superintendent of Operations and Transportation before moving to Labor Relations in 1971. He retired from NYC Transit in 1987.

Austin D. McKenzie – Retired as an assistant train dispatcher in 1970.

Maury M. Reid, Jr. – Joined NYCBOT in 1948 as a railroad clerk. He transferred to Rapid Transit Operations and became the director of the RTO Training School, retiring as an assistant director, Office of Labor Relations.

Percy E. Sutton – Worked for NYCBOT from 1948 to 1953 as a subway conductor, token clerk, and waiter while attending law school.

Victor W. Terrelonge – Joined NYCBOT as a trolley motorman out of Coney Island. He advanced through the ranks of NYC Transit, retiring in 1984 as a safety coordinator. From 1984 to 2003, he served as a safety consultant to the Legal Department.

Fred O. Wilson – Joined NYCBOT in 1945 as a street car operator and retired as a bus operator from the Jamaica Bus Depot in 1976.

Friday’s ceremony marked the first Black History Month event hosted by NYC Transit’s Veterans Employee Resource Group, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, growing its membership from eight founding members to over 150 participants in just its first year.

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