Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

One of the last Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Williams passes

Two days before Independence Day, on July 2, Lt. Col. Eldridge Williams died at his Kendall area home near The Falls at age 97. His companion of 17 years, Rosa White, was by his side.

“He made great choices in life,” White said. “This was a man who entered this world under adverse circumstances and encountered numerous others, nevertheless made decisions and choices that resulted in a level of success for himself and a record of providing assistance to others.”

Indeed, after serving during World War II — after Congress passed an act in 1941 to compel the U.S. Army Air Corps to train blacks at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama — Williams once again served his country during the 1948 Berlin Airlift and again in the Korean War.

“He was the embodiment of patriotism, and like his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, he faced great odds during World War II but completed his mission with a dignity and distinction that is befitting the veterans of the Greatest Generation,” Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio T. González said in a statement.


Born in Washington County, Texas, on Nov. 2, 1917, Williams moved to Richmond Heights, a community in South Miami-Dade established for black serviceman returning from World War II, in 1949. He retired from military service in 1963. He would then reshape his adopted community in Miami.

Williams taught physical education at Richmond Heights Middle School. Fitness and education, he decided early in life, would be means to a better future. Within two years, he was promoted to administrator, tasked with integrating Dade County public schools. He retired in 1985.

Mentoring children became his life’s passion, according to White.

“He really talked about it a lot,” she said. “He was always concerned about children and the dropout situation. He wanted to see to it that the school system had some programs for these kids who dropped out of schools. That was his big thing.”

But Williams’ role as one of the Tuskegee Airmen eventually brought him overdue acclaim. President George W. Bush presented Williams and the other living airmen the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, inside the Capitol Rotunda in 2007.

“The Tuskegee Airmen helped win a war, and you helped change our nation,” Bush told the honorees.

Two years later, Williams was among the airmen who received a special invitation to attend President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

“At the time of the draft, I was a senior in college,” Williams recalled before a group of Miami school children in 2009 while being honored by the Homestead/Florida City Human Relations Board. He told the kids of earning his degree in education from Xavier University in New Orleans in 1941 before joining the military. “All around, there are signs that say blacks and whites. In spite of the difficulties, you still carried out your job.”

Williams was first commissioned as Second Lieutenant on Miami Beach in 1942. At Officer Candidate School on the Beach, his classmate was Hollywood screen legend Clark Gable. Williams wasn’t afforded the respect a white actor would enjoy in that era. On graduation day, families rushed the stage to pin the U.S. flag on the graduates’ beige jackets.

But in Miami Beach, in 1942, blacks were not welcomed. Without fanfare, Williams calmly placed his jacket on the sand, squatted before it, and quietly pinned the flag on his jacket.

He was assigned to the Tuskegee Institute, where an army doctor grounded him, citing “poor eyesight.”

Call it just another one of the “oddball things” that happened as he was “trying to get [my] wings” in a segregated country, Williams recalled in a 2011 Miami Herald feature.

As a captain, Williams trained Tuskegee Airmen who flew overseas to escort bomber planes across Europe. No bomber plane would be shot down while under Tuskegee Airmen protection. Though he didn’t make it overseas — “I wanted to go because if you are on the team, you want to play,” he once said — he flew at the Tuskegee Institute and served as a flight instructor until the end of World War II.

“For years, I thought what else could I have done to change the course of events,” Williams pondered in a 2011 Herald feature. “The laws at the time just did not allow for much to happen. But when you look up at an airplane in the sky, you can’t tell if a pilot is black or white.”

In addition to White, Williams is survived by his daughter Catherine. Services are pending, and Williams will be interred at Arlington Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Miami Tuskegee Airmen, P.O. Box 172072, Hialeah, Fl. 33017.

More Articles
- X-Men: Apocalypse' Trounces Alice With $8.2M Thursday Night
- My Prince Experience - Tony Lesesne
- South Florida's new wave of Artistic talent - MUMFF
- FEDS reply to Apple
- Apple gets backing in FBI Phone case
- Star Wars: Episode VIII begins filming
- 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Named Best Sports Car for the Money
- FCC plan would give consumer control of set-top box
- Birth of a nation sells at Sundance for $17.5 Million
- Netflix subscribers set to hit 100mil by 2017
- Wednesday Night Comedy show to hit Miami
- NATPE 2016- Ted Sarandos of Netflix to moderate
- Tesla Model X - The high performance SUV
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens blasts away box office records
- Mazda to Showcase 'Car as Art' Exhibit
- The new Jeep Cherokee reinvigorates the 4x4
- Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall Volunteers Distribute Food
- CareerSource SFL gets top award- FL department of education
- Miami Dolphins Announce 50th Season all time team
- Mazda to Unveil All-New CX-9
- T-Mobile CEO thinks Blackberry might be making a comeback
- The new 2016 Nissan Titan XD takes a gamble
- National Flight Academy receives grant to educate youth
- Ford program recognized by White House initiative
- Understanding the power of the black consumer
- JM Family- Nominations for African American Achievers awards
- MUMFF 2015 - A major success
- Tesla gets a power updgrade on the Model S
- Runcible, a new smartphone shaped like a pocketwatch
- Dynamic performance of the Dodge Viper ACR 2016
- 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Fuel Economy Improves Dramatic 25%
- Future car stirs surprise in San Francisco
- LMG announces BECON TV as Newest Media Partner
- Miami Music Club - Giving drummers a chance to shine
- 5 Things to know about Miami's Tech Scene
- MIA Urban Music & Film Fest building an entertainment hub
- Dodge Viper GT3 proves fastest track car 2015
- Miami Urban Music and Film Festival 2015 is on the horizon
- MIA Urban Music & Film Festival September 25th & 26th
- Google Cardboard: How VR and AR could take off at Google IO
- Carol City High Defeats Dillard, 31-28
- ASPA Awards recipients 2015
- LMG Entertainment screens six projects at MMFM
- Miami Dolphins Rookies Rebuilding Together Event
- Mazda Reports Second-Best May Since 1996
- LMG is June 2015 Supplier of the Month at Broward College
- Stan Lee brings World of Superheroes to YouTube Spaces
- Surprising ways to lower your data usage
- Chevy Introduces 2016 Corvette Z06 C7.R
- Twitter designs new home page to flock new users
- Teen cuts into Apple watch band market
- Auto advances - The center of Ft. Lauderdale Auto Show 2015
- Ground breaking Rock Band game to make a return on next gen
- Blast Motion Signs Miami HEAT'S James Ennis
- Sea snails now make the strongest material on the planet
- JM Family Announces 2015 African American Achievers
- The Kingsmen Secret Service Review
- 50 Shades of Grey Review
- Hidden Apollo 11 artifacts found in Neil Armstrongs closet
- New VP and General Counsel - South East Toyota Distributors
- Comcast Highlights waves made in the Black Community
- Geoffrey Alardo named M-DCPS Teacher of the year
- Mazda names Jacob Brown Product Comm Specialist
- Black Tech week to position SFL to be a Hub for business
- New Media CEO Suzanne McDonald wins top intl Business Award
- Genetically modded mosquitoes could be released in the keys
- LMG visits NATPE 2015 - Day 1
- Benefits of Pressured Decision Making
- Should there be a limit to artistic and journalistic freedom
- AutoFOCUS - What's the Appeal; My top 3 features
- Family Fest: Seeds of the African Diaspora
- Streaming devices poised to dominate the viewing preference
- The World's Smallest PC
- Chris Rock's Top Five Review
- 6 Ways to kick off 2015 on a High Note
- Mazda reports best annual sales in 20 years
- Cable Giants Partner For Set-Top Box Data
- NATPE Announces on Pace Registration numbers for NATPE 2015
- Raquel Regalado visits Miami High During ‘Hour of Code
- Boxing expert James Smith signs deal w/ Creative Talent inc
- Miami Beach's Alton Road finally completed
- Gloria Estefan Talks Autobiographical Musical, On Your Feet!
- Space probe makes first ever landing onto a comet
- Live local and diverse entertainment ready to take the stage
- 13th Annual AutoFOCUS Awards Recap
- 6 Surprising facts about Diabetes
- MIA Artist to tag Middle School to raise money
- Stampede of 2015 Custom Ford Mustangs
- Miami's Tobacco Road Last Call after 102 Years
- VP of SAMA to be awarded at upcoming AutoFOCUS Awards
- 13th Annual AutoFOCUS Awards to leverage past/advance future
- American Sabor tells Mia's Latin Culture in American Music
- New Miami Central Train Station could become an urban Hub
- Premium Cable Content...without cable
- NATPE 2015 announces Market and Conference Theme
- MAZDA2 Wins Japan's Car of the year