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Detroit celebrates Tuskegee Airman’s 100th birthday

Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson's 100th birthday. (Minnah Arshad/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, turned 100 on Monday.

The city of Detroit honored his service through a rededication of Jefferson Field in Rouge Park, a key to the city, and renditions of a statue and plaza in his name.

Jefferson, a Detroit native, served in the U. S. Army Air Forces during World War II. In 1995, Jefferson was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.

Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson’s 100th birthday. (Minnah Arshad/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallet and the public gathered on Jefferson Field to honor the airman’s service.

Detroit historian Jamon Jordan and others spoke about the racism Black Americans faced when joining the military. Jefferson volunteered to join the military in the era of Nazism.

“In a time when Black Americans face prejudice and outright discrimination … Lt. Col. Jefferson was willing to put his life on the line for his country, even though his country was not at its best,” Stabenow said at the ceremony.

Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson’s 100th birthday. (Minnah Arshad/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Jefferson was discharged from active duty in 1947 and retired from the reserves in 1969, according to a news release from the city.

“After Lt. Col. Jefferson had already given so much to his country, he came home and kept right on giving — in the reserves, as a science teacher, an assistant principal, and through so many community organizations,” Stabenow said.

Among his many honors, Jefferson has been awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and World War II Victory Medal.

“This is not only someone who is a Detroit hero, but an American hero as well,” Stabenow told the crowd.

Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson’s 100th birthday. (Minnah Arshad/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

According to the release, Jefferson used to fly model airplanes on what is now Jefferson Field as a little boy. Now, the Detroit Aero Modelers use the space to fly their model planes. The aero modelers showcased some of their planes at the ceremony.

“Everything that you stand for, Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, just know this: There is a generation just behind you that is continuing this movement right here at home, and fighting for true liberation for our Black and brown communities, but especially my Black neighbors here,” said Tlaib.

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