BY TRONE DOWD
Over the Fourth of July weekend, America lost one of its most prominent and perseverant black heroes, Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.
Brown died at the age of 94 at a hospital in Riverdale in the Bronx. An avid Civil Rights activist and pioneer in the fight for equal rights, the World War II veteran leaves behind a legacy that will not be soon forgotten.
As a member of the United States Air Force, Brown led the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black military men that joined the service despite the U.S.’s reluctance to integrate blacks and whites in the fight against the Axis Powers. During his years of service, Brown earned the rank of Captain and was a Squadron Commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. In combat, he shot down both an FW-190 fighter jet and a German Me-262 fighter jet, the first American, regardless of race, to do so during the war.
Brown flew 68 total missions in the Air Force during the war and was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.
After the end of World War II, Brown returned to the U.S. with plans of becoming an educator. He had always been academically sound. Before enlisting in the military, he attended the Springfield College in Massachusetts, becoming the valedictorian of the graduating Class of 1943. Upon his arrival home, he went to school and earned his Master’s and his doctorate at New York University.
Brown soon became a director of NYU’s Institute of Afro-American Affairs. He was also a professor at NYU before becoming president of Bronx Community College in 1977. After leaving BCC, in 1993 he became the director of the Center for Education Policy at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.
Here in Southeast Queens, Brown’s death had quite the effect on local politicians and institutions. The Press of Southeast Queens spoke to a number of elected who shared their thoughts on the man’s passing.
“This week, we have lost one of our heroes, Dr. Roscoe Brown Jr,” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans). “As a proud member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Captain Brown and his fellow pilots proved to the world that African-Americans were equal to, and superior to many, in piloting aircraft. He and his fellow airman carried the campaign for respect and opportunity into peacetime and were instrumental in integrating our armed forces. My thoughts and prayers are with the Brown family in this time of mourning.”
“Dr. Roscoe Brown was a true pioneer and a leader,” said state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “He was an inspiration to so many people in this city, state and country.”
Comrie told the Press of Southeast Queens that he had the chance to meet Brown on several different occasions and spoke glowingly of the late veteran.
“His generosity, his spirit, his ability to speak to everyone. Dr. Brown was a true renaissance person and his passing is a real loss to our community,” he concluded.
“The York College community is saddened by the death of Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, a hero pilot with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and a longtime CUNY colleague and friend to York,” York College President Marcia Keizs said in a public statement. “Our history is the richer for Dr. Brown’s life of service. We salute his memory and are thankful for his innumerable acts of service to our nation, our city and our university family.”
Brown had a special relationship with the Southeast Queens college. In 2009, surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, including Brown, were honorees at the school’s annual gala. The school also features a gold Tuskegee Airman statue in the atrium of the Academic Core Building.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, email@example.com or @theloniusly