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Alabama’s first licensed black female pilot dies at 90

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 12:16 PM Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 12:35 PM

The Associated Press By The Associated Press 
Mildred Carter, pictured here in 2003, shows her pilot’s
license from 1941. (The Birmingham News/ file photo)

TUSKEGEE, Alabama — Mildred Carter, who was Alabama’s first licensed black female pilot, has died. She was 90.

Funeral services for Carter will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Tuskegee’s St. Andrews Episcopal Church with The Rev. Liston Garfield officiating. Burial will be at Greenwood Cemetery.

Her husband Herbert was a Tuskegee Airman.

In an interview with The Montgomery Advertiser he recalled how they had flown in a two-plane formation high over Alabama. He remembers how they laughed and exchanged silent “I love you” signals over their engine noise 3,000 feet above Lake Martin.

“We didn’t have radio contact, so we made up for it with hand signals and blew kisses at each other,” the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel said Tuesday. “It was a lot of fun.”

Herbert Carter, who compiled a distinguished flying record during World War II and, later, in peacetime, recalled those unauthorized rendezvous flights over the lake.

“I was a maintenance officer as well as a combat pilot and one of my jobs was to take planes up for a test flight after we worked on them,” he said. “That’s when we came up with the idea of flying over the lake. Nobody ever said anything to me about what we did.”

Both had to overcome racial prejudices and discriminatory practices when they learned to fly, but they persevered. As the years passed, they became the “first family” of the Tuskegee Airmen organization and represented the group at functions around the world.

She is survived by her husband, three children, a sister, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

© 2011 All rights reserved.


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