Dr. William Morgan, originally from rural Pennsylvania, was a Tuskegee Airman and pilot who learned about the Tuskegee Institute’s aviation program for black men from an article in a newspaper. He volunteered for service to our country in 1943, making it into the first-of-its-kind program at the Tuskegee Institute and qualifying to enter pilot training, which only accepted 35 out of 537 candidates at that time.
Growing up in the one black family in his small town, Dr. Morgan had little experience around other people of color before his time in the military. He is known to have said, “I learned a lot about life after meeting the cream of the crop of the black race. I saw what we could make of ourselves.”
He earned his wings and was commissioned as a flight officer in 1945, assigned as a replacement to the 332nd Fighter Group, although the war came to an end before he could fulfill the assignment. His class would be the last to graduate from the Tuskegee Institute aviation program.
After his service, he came back to rural Pennsylvania to work on his family’s farm, and then went on to dental school in Pittsburgh where he earned his DDS degree. Dr. Morgan eventually settled with his family in Minnesota, where he lived until his passing in 2006.
Like many people – then and now – Dr. Morgan’s two children did not learn about the Tuskegee Experience in their schooling and although their own father had been a part of this groundbreaking group, they didn’t fully understand the impact of that until reaching college and delving into black history at a deeper level. The Morgan family had always lived in rural areas with very little black population or exposure to black history, and Dr. Morgan wanted his children to make their own decisions about the issues of race, unfettered from his own experience.
“He was humble. He just wanted to be a pilot,” says Susan Morgan, the second of Dr. Morgan’s two children. “For him, discrimination was a part of the process. He was doing what he wanted to do, not thinking about the impact it would have on black history. He knew that whatever environment you were in, you can overcome those barriers.”
Ms. Morgan says that her father helped her to erase prejudicial barriers and preconceived ideas because he didn’t let the difficult things he experienced impact his or his family’s life. She is grateful that he gave her the freedom and ability to figure out delicate issues like race on her own and make her own judgments.
“Dad never impressed his experience on us, but being a Tuskegee Airman broadened his understanding and impacted our family,” she shared. “The Airmen were more than pilots – they were pursuing a dream and living a life. And today that message of perseverance, to follow your dreams, is still important.”
On behalf of the CAF Red Tail Squadron, we salute Dr. William Morgan for his service to our country, and for continuing to be an inspirational figure for generations to come.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.