March 04, 2009 Edition

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Tuskegee airman visits WR



Judy Wilson, board member at the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum, honors Milton Crenchaw with a pin bearing the museum's shield.
TD Photo ~ Hollyann Crum
Hollyann Crum
Staff Intern

Milton Crenchaw, Tuskegee airman, visited the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport and former Army Air Field on Thursday in conjunction with Black River Technical College's celebration of Black History Month.

Crenchaw was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military airmen, and was the first from Arkansas to be trained by the federal government as a civilian licensed pilot. He trained hundreds of cadet pilots while at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute in the 1940s. Crenchaw's combined service record extends for more than 40 years of federal service with the U.S. Army Air Corps and eventually the U.S. Air Force.

After speaking at the Randolph County Development Center on the BRTC campus in Pocahontas, Crenchaw ate lunch with members of the community in the airplane dining room at the Parachute Inn at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport. Among the nearly 25 people in attendance was Fayth Hill-Washington of West Memphis. Hill-Washington, one of the 21 African-American students who integrated Hoxie School in 1955, commented, "I have heard all of my life about the Tuskegee Airmen. It was quite an honor for me to meet the instructor."

Crenchaw toured the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum, along with about 20 members of the community.

"This museum is out of this world," said Crenchaw as he viewed the displays. "It is a start that future generations can use to get Arkansas on the map."

While at the museum, Crenchaw spoke about his experience with the Tuskegee Airmen, answering questions and telling listeners "our job is to help this country so that we may build a better world."

"This community stands head and shoulders above other parts of Arkansas," said Crenchaw. "You have wonderful people."

Crenchaw finished his day with a second presentation at BRTC Thursday night.

Edmond Davis, Crenchaw's chief of staff, accompanied Crenchaw during his visit. Davis has written two books, one to be released in April entitled "Black Aviators of Arkansas" and "Airkansan: The Milton Crenchaw Story," which is set to be released in July.

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