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Pics: Hilton Carter, one of last remaining Tuskeegee Airmen, laid to rest

Odessa Carter, middle, wife of Hilton Carter, along with her daughter and Paula Barrett, right, and funeral director Larissa Jones listen to the message from Father Ramon Owera of Saint Dominic Roman Catholic Church during the interment ceremony for Hilton Carter at St. Joseph Cemetery on the Far South Side on Wednesday. Carter, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died May 6 at the age of 91. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch/TNS]

Described as a “silent warrior” by his friends and family, Hilton Carter’s exploits as a military veteran, pioneering Tuskegee Airman and public servant were matched, and perhaps surpassed, by his legacy as a father, grandfather, husband and friend.

A small group of relatives gathered Wednesday at an East Side funeral home to remember Carter, who died May 6 at age 91. But the entire city of Columbus was witness to a military flyover and procession of cars to Carter’s final stop at St. Joseph Cemetery just south of Columbus along Route 23, not far from Rickenbacker Airport.

Willie Keaton, Carter’s brother-in-law, recalled a loving, caring man who cherished his family and also had a fun side.

Members of the Reynoldsburg Veterans Color Guard VFW Post 9473 give a three-volley salute during the interment ceremony for Hilton Carter at St. Joseph Cemetery on the Far South Side on Wednesday. Carter, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died May 6 at the age of 91. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch/TNS]

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“He was quiet, reserved. When he spoke there was no misunderstanding,” Keaton said.

Keaton called his sister Odessa’s husband a silent warrior “who did not talk his game, but let his actions lead.”

As a teenager, Carter flew in the Pacific Theater during World War II before he became an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a famed group of black fighter pilots. There are only two now living in Columbus.

After the war ended, he stayed in Columbus and held various posts in city and county government and was an active Democrat.

A battlefield cross with helmet, gun dog tags and boots stands behind the casket during the interment ceremony for Hilton Carter at St. Joseph Cemetery on the Far South Side on Wednesday. Carter, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died May 6 at the age of 91. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch/TNS]

Carter faced obstacles, but remained committed to justice, Keaton said.

“With all the racism he had to overcome, he did not let that overcome him. He set out to change things and make life better for his family.”

Columbus became home for Carter in 1948 when he received a transfer to what was then Lockbourne Air Force Base, now known as Rickenbacker Airport.

An Ohio National Guard KC 135 flies over the interment ceremony for Hilton Carter at St. Joseph Cemetery on the Far South Side on Wednesday. Carter, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died May 6 at the age of 91. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch/TNS]

After leaving the Air Force in 1949, he continued to serve as a civilian flight engineer. He married his wife, Odessa, and the couple moved to Los Angeles for a time before returning to Columbus.

Carter became a committeeman for the Democratic Party in Columbus and on the party’s Franklin County central committee. He worked as deputy treasurer, treasurer and deputy auditor for the city of Columbus and as an assistant deputy auditor in the Ohio auditor’s office.

Ernest Rosser’s Tuskegee Airmen show car sits parked beside the interment ceremony for Hilton Carter at St. Joseph Cemetery on the Far South Side on Wednesday. Carter, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died May 6 at the age of 91. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch/TNS]

Carter was a longtime member of St. Dominic Catholic Church. The Rev. Ramon Owera told a gathering earlier at Marlan J. Gary Funeral Home, 5456 Livingston Ave., that Carter lived a “long and fulfilling and very successful life.”

Keaton recalled Carter’s mischievous side, including a love of gambling and building his own craps table, and how he’d gather friend to attend prayer breakfasts.

Like many of his generation, he also was frugal, placing spare change inside a “guru” statue at his home, so that his children and grandchildren could learn the importance of saving.

John Waibel, a member of the Reynoldsburg Veterans Color Guard from VFW Post 9473, presents Odessa Carter, wife of Hilton Carter, a commemorative coin during the interment ceremony for Hilton at St. Joseph Cemetery on the Far South Side on Wednesday. Carter, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died May 6 at the age of 91. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch/TNS]

As an honor guard sounded a three-volley salute, a military flag was carefully folded and presented to Odessa Carter. Taps was played. Keaton walked away, tears visible above his face mask.

“It’s very moving that Columbus came out and gave him that kind of respect,” he said.

He is survived by Odessa; a daughter, Paula (Dylan) Barrett; a daughter-in law, Beverly Carter; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Richard Carter, and a brother, Daniel.

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© 2020 The Columbus Dispatch

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This article — originally published by The Columbus Dispatch — has been updated to clarify Hilton Carter flew in the Pacific Theater before joining the Tuskegee Airmen, and not with any Tuskegee unit.