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Leslie Edwards (1924–2019), one of the last Tuskegee Airmen

AP Photo/David Kohl

Aircraft mechanic and Flight Chief of Flight A in the 617th Bomb Squadron

Leslie Edwards was one of the last remaining Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American pilots who served in the U.S. military during World War II. An aircraft mechanic, Edwards was Flight Chief of Flight A in the 617th Bomb Squadron. Stationed in the U.S., he was responsible for the flight readiness of B-25 bombers that flew overseas in the war. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and went on to become a government meat inspector. He also spoke around the country about the role of the Tuskegee Airmen, delving into the history of the airmen for his own enjoyment and to preserve their stories.

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Died: September 23, 2019 (Who else died on September 23?)

Details of death: Died at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio of ALS at the age of 95.

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Recognized at last: The Tuskegee Airmen were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal many years after their service, in 2007. Edwards was there for the ceremony, having traveled to Washington D.C. with his daughter. He also attended both inaugurations of President Barack Obama.

Notable quote: “They never wanted blacks in combat in World War II. Why? The military did not want blacks to get honored as military personnel who were effective in combat. They wanted us to be effective as a labor force in World War II. In spite of what they didn’t want, blacks have proven over and over again that we were effective in combat.” —from a 2017 interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer

What people said about him: “The Cincinnati area has lost its last Tuskegee Airman — and his life was nothing short of amazing.” —Ohio Department of Veterans Services

“Thank you Leslie Edwards! You are one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation. You will never be forgotten. RIP” —Twitter user @Stegz

Full obituary: Cincinnati Enquirer

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