Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, One of Last Surviving Tuskegee Airmen, Dies at 102

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

One of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, Brigadier General Charles McGee, died in his sleep at 102.

The U.S. Sun reported that the man’s family described him as a “living legend” known for his “kind-hearted, and humble nature, who saw positivity in every turn.”

Born in 1919, McGee fought in three American wars: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He completed over 409 air combat missions and served for over 30 years before retiring in 1973. McGee died in Bethesda, Md.

Tuskegee Airman McGee Was A Lifer

McGee had fought in three wars, World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars, completing over 409 air combat missions. He had over 30 years of active service.

The man was a Tuskegee Airman, known as the first Black military pilots. They worked as both fighter and bomber, and airmen who fought in World War II.

McGee picked up several notable awards throughout his life. Former President George W. Bush awarded the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medals in 2007. He also picked up the National Business Aviation Association’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award in 2012. 

McGee received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Bronze Star Medal.

Joint Base San Antonio celebrated McGee’s 102nd birthday. According to an Air Force report, McGee toured the base with his family on Dec. 6. The McGee family also saw a T-1A Jayhawk with the man’s name painted on the side of it.

Base officials expressed gratitude and appreciation for his service. They even gave him a bottle of cola as part of the tradition of shooting down an enemy aircraft, which McGee likely did numerous times over his long career. 

The Military Times reported that McGee also few a private jet from Frederick, Md. to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to celebrate his 100th birthday. On another occasion, he participated in the Super Bowl coin toss one year in Miami with a trio of other 100-year-old veterans.

McGee Among Flying’s Best

In 2011, Charles McGee became one of over 200 inductees into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. That list includes Amelia Earhart, the Wright Brothers, and astronauts like John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin honored McGee upon hearing of the man’s death, saying “we lost an American hero” in a Tweet.

“While I am saddened by his loss, I’m also incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, his legacy, and his character,” Austin added. “Rest in Peace, General.”

Family Admired McGee For His Service

McGee’s surviving family consists of his three children, ten grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

A family statement reflected on “the importance and significance” of McGee’s legacy. They asked the nation to mourn and remember McGee’s fellow Tuskegee Airmen along with “everyone who played a role in the support and protection of American democracy.” 

The family said McGee’s daughter, Yvonne, witnessed her father die “with his right hand over his heart and was smiling serenely.”

Another child, McGee’s son Ron, called his father “a wonderful human being” and added that he felt “proud and privileged to be called his son.”