Former Tuskegee Airman Robert Decatur, who went on to become a judge and civil rights lawyer, has died. He was 88.
Decatur died at his home in Titusville, Fla., on Aug. 19, according to officials with the Newcomer Funeral Home there. He will be buried at Biloxi National Cemetery on Thursday with full military honors.
He was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the country's first black military pilots and crew, who fought overseas during World War II but faced discrimination when they returned home.
In 1943, he was sent to Keesler Field in Biloxi for basic training, then on to Tuskegee, Ala., where the airmen trained as a segregated unit at an air base.
In 2007, Decatur was among the surviving airmen who received the Congressional Gold Medal.
In a 2001 Associated Press story about a joint meeting of the Tuskegee Airman Inc. and The Organization of Black Airline Pilots in Tennessee, Decatur said the Tuskegee program was considered an experiment and the airmen knew they could not fail.
"We knew that if we failed, there would be no other programs for black Americans to fly," he said then.
The Sun Herald reported that Decatur received his pilot's license from the University of Akron and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, both in Ohio.
He spent 25 years as a probate judge in Ohio, hearing thousands of cases, and taught at six different law schools.
Decatur is survived by his wife, Rose; a son, three daughters, a stepson, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.