Tuskegee Airman Lemuel Lewie Jr Dies at 99

Lemuel Lewie said of his life experiences, “I’d do it all over again.” (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Lemuel “Arthur” Lewie Jr., a retired Carver Vocational-Technical High School science teacher who was a member of the World War II unit known as the Tuskegee Airmen, died of congestive heart failure April 14 at PowerBack Rehabilitation in Lutherville. The Windsor Mill resident was 99.

Mr. Lewie was the last Baltimore-area member of the Airmen, the first group of African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. He was honored for his service on numerous occasions and most recently appeared at the city’s War Memorial on Veterans Day 2018.

“The unit, comprising the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the Army Air Forces, became legendary both for their elite skills and for the fact that they carried out their missions at a time when much of the nation — including the federal government and the military — was still largely segregated by race,” said a 2018 article in The Sun published at the time of Mr. Lewie’s 70th wedding anniversary.

Born in Columbia, S.C., he was the son of Dr. Lemuel A. Lewie Sr., a dentist who was a Howard University graduate, and his wife, Ophelia McDaniel Lewie. He lived the Waverly section of Columbia.

He was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Allen University. He later received a master’s degree in biology from Atlanta University and also studied at the University of Maryland.

Mr. Lewie was trained in rural Tuskegee, Ala., and became part of the Airmen, known as the “Red Tails” for the pattern painted on their planes. He and other black flyers and their staff were subjected to discrimination inside and outside the military even as they went about achieving legendary status, The Sun’s 2018 article said.

Mr. Lewie trained at Atlanta University in the Adjutant General’s Administrative School. He also studied at Spelman University, Morehouse College, and Clark-Atlanta University.

In 1944, as a lieutenant, he was assigned to the Tuskegee Army Air Force Base and took pilot training with Piper Cubs. The next year he served at Midland Army Air Field in Texas.

In a memoir, he said his most memorable experiences included being the first student officer in his class to fly solo, his spectacular night flying and his excellent flight training. He also recalled being the paymaster for an Army Corps of Engineers unit with a biweekly payroll of $25,000.

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SOURCE: The Baltimore Sun, Jacques Kelly