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Alfred McKenzie; Tuskegee Airman, Rights Activist

Alfred U. McKenzie, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, a member of a black bomber squadron in World War II and a champion of civil rights, has died.

He was 80.

McKenzie died March 30 of prostate cancer in a Clinton, Md., hospital.

A native of Washington, McKenzie worked in his father’s sign painting business, W. McKenzie and Sons, before he was drafted in 1942. Fascinated with airplanes since childhood, he completed training as a B-25 pilot at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

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Later stationed at what was then Freeman Field in Indiana, McKenzie became one of 101 black officers charged with mutiny for refusing to sign an order barring black trainee personnel from officers’ clubs. The charges were dropped after a week, and at the 1995 Tuskegee Airmen Convention, the Air Force announced that letters of reprimand would be removed from the pilots’ records.

After the war, McKenzie spent his career in the government printing office. Bypassed repeatedly for promotion, he filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in 1973 with the Coalition of Minority Workers and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. The case earned $2.4 million in back pay for 300 minority workers.

In 1994, the Washington attorneys’ group established the national Alfred McKenzie awards in recognition of clients who win civil rights cases on behalf of others.


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