By Andy Rose and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
(CNN) — Homer Hogues, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, died this week in Dallas, just two days after the death of his wife, according to an obituary provided by his family. He was 96.
Hogues, who served in the US military as an airplane mechanic and attained the enlisted rank of staff sergeant, died Tuesday and his wife, Mattie Bell, died Sunday, the obituary said. The pair was married for more than 70 years.
Hogues enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1946, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and served as a mechanic for the 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group – one of the US military’s first units of Black aviators.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the the US military’s first Black aviators and their support personnel. Before World War II, Black Americans were not allowed to become aviators in the military, but the US Army Air Corps created what was then an experimental training program for Black aviators at Alabama’s Tuskegee Army Airfield.
From 1941 to 1946, 966 Black military aviators completed training at Tuskegee, and they formed units including the 332nd Fighter Group, according to Arlington National Cemetery.
Hogues was one of the more than 10,000 Black men and women who supported those pilots, the National Museum of African American History and Culture said.
“Throughout his life, Hogues was an active representative of the Tuskegee Airmen, giving countless speeches and interviews about his military service,” the museum said Thursday.
“It meant the world to me,” Hogues told The Dallas Morning News in 2016 of his time in the military. “I wanted to do everything right.”
Born in Navasota, Texas, in April 1927, Hogues was a devoted member of several churches throughout his life. He was “loved and appreciated especially with the youth ministry as chief mechanic and bus driver for summer youth trips,” the obituary said.
After leaving the military, Hogues struggled to get his dream job with an airline, he told The Dallas Morning News.
“They said the only thing I could do was gut planes and sweep the floors and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I thought that was a slap in the face.”
He eventually got a job at an electroplating facility near Dallas, where he worked for about four decades before retiring, according to the obituary.
At the age of 80, Hogues became a member of the Claude R. Platt Dallas Fort Worth Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, the obituary said.
“Sergeant Hogues will be remembered for helping to bring about groundbreaking reforms in the US armed forces and inspiring future generations of servicemembers,” the National Museum of African American History and Culture said.
He participated in President Harry Truman’s second inaugural parade and also attended President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade in 2012, according to a charitable foundation started by Hogues’ family.
“Homer was soft spoken and kindhearted and loved by many,” the obituary said. “He spent a brief time in a nursing home but was blessed to return home with the assistance of various community and military groups.”
Hogues is survived by his three daughters, 10 grandchildren, more than a dozen great-grandchildren and “a host of nieces, nephews, adopted children and friends.” the obituary said.
A joint memorial service for Hogues and his wife will be held Saturday.
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