Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward dies at 95

The pioneering aviator, Lowell C. Steward, a former Tuskegee Airman who flew nearly 200 missions in Europe during World War II, died of natural causes Wednesday, December 17,2014 at a hospital in Ventura, California; he was 95 years old. He was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and In 2007, Steward was present at the U.S. Capitol when President George W. Bush presented members of the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Lowell c StewardSteward joined the Army Air Corps and trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama after graduating with a business degree from Santa Barbara College in 1941, the report notes.

In 1944 he was assigned to Italy with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the all-black unit. “From Capodechino Air Base in Naples, Steward completed 96 missions, flying P-39 Airacobras and P-40 Warhawks. Later based in Ramitelli, Italy, he flew 96 escort and strafing missions in P-51 Mustangs,” the report states.

The first black U.S. military pilots held themselves to a high standard amid intense racial scrutiny, Steward often said, The Guardian notes.

“He would say, ‘We had to be better because we were looked at harder. The odds were stacked against us. Some people wanted us to fail,’” Lowell Jr. said, according to the newspaper.

The first black U.S. military pilots held themselves to a high standard amid intense racial scrutiny, Steward often said, The Guardian notes.

“He would say, ‘We had to be better because we were looked at harder. The odds were stacked against us. Some people wanted us to fail,’” Lowell Jr. said, according to the newspaper. He was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After his discharge in 1946, he moved to Los Angeles and tried to buy a home, only to be rejected repeatedly because he was black, the report says.

“After several encounters like that, he said, ‘I need to figure out how to finance my own home.’ That’s when he went to real estate school,” Lowell Jr. said, according to The Guardian.

Steward went on to become one of the first black real estate agents in Los Angeles and worked for 40 years in the industry, the report says.

He helped organize and later served as president of the Los Angeles chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., a group devoted to preserving the legacy of the fighter pilots. He also founded a scholarship foundation in the name of the airmen.

Steward’s wife of 60 years, Helen, died in 2004. He is survived by son, Lowell Jr., daughters Shelley Lambert and Pamela Mills, along with 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

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