Thursday, February 19, 2009

Black History Month - Guadalupe County Aviator

Excerpt from Organizing Black America An Encyclopedia of African American Associations edited by Nina Mjagkig - published 2001 by Garland Publishing Company:

During the 1930s a growing number of African Americans learned to fly and struggled to enter the burgeoning field of aviation in the face of racism and discrimination. Although black pilots and flying enthusiasts could be found scattered across the nation, by the mid-1930s, Chicago was emerging as the center of African American aviation. Under the leadership of John C. Robinson and Cornelius Coffey, Chicago's black pilots organized in the early 1930s as the Challenger Aero Club, later known as the Challenger Air Pilots Association. In 1935, following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia under Benito Mussolini, Robinson went to Ethiopia to fly for Emperor Haile Selassie.
Excerpt from Double V: The Civil Rights Struggle of the Tuskegee Airmen by Lawrence P. Scott and William M. Womack, 1988, MSU Press:
Cornelius Coffey and John Robinson came to Chicago in the late twenties to pursue careers in motorcycle and auto mechanics. Coffey, a reserved young man, already owned repair shops in Detroit and was expanding his ventures to Chicago. Robinson, outgoing and charismatic, arrived in Chicago in 1929 with a vocational degree in mechanics from Tuskegee Institute. Robinson had developed, in a short time, a reputation in Chicago as a motorcycle stunt rider.
Note: I'm not certain that the San Antonio Express article is correct in stating that John C. Robinson was born in Guadalupe County. I have read that he was born in Carabel, Florida in 1903 {OR - as sometimes occurs, was the San Antonio newspaper article correct - and 'history' changed ??} and moved to Gulfport with his mother Celeste, after the death of his father. Celeste ran a boarding house and remarried to Charles Cobb, a mechanic with the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad.
In March 1954, a training plane that Robinson was flying crashed at an Addis Ababa airfield. Robinson died from burns two weeks later and was buried with military honors at Gulele Cemetery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science by Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer and Caroline M. Fannin, Oryx Press, published 2002
page 251
John Charles Robinson
born November 26, 1903 in Carabelle, Florida
died March 27, 1954 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Education: degree in automotive mechanics, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama 1924; graduated Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Institute, Chicago, 1931; U. S. Department of Commerce, private pilot's license No. 26,042 by 1932; transport pilot's license by 1935.
Positions held:
auto mechanic, Detroit, 1920s; auto repair garage owner, late 1920s-late 1930s; instructor, Curtiss-Wright Institute, 1931-?; organizer Brown Eagle Aero Club and Challenger Air Pilots Association, early 1930s; Ethiopian Air Force, 1935-1936; founder and head, John C. Robinson National Air College, Chicago, 1936-1944(?); instructor, Chanute Air Base, Rantoul, Illinois, early 1940s(?); Ethiopian Air Force, 1945(?)-1948(?); operator, Sultan Airlines, 1948-?.
It would seem that the people who think they remember John C. Robinson in Guadalupe County may be remembering a different John Robinson.

1 comment:

  1. Why did John C. Robinson's plane crash?