By Joel Hall
After a year and a half of work in the Georgia General Assembly, legislators in the North Clayton and South Fulton areas were successful in renaming a portion of Camp Creek Parkway in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen.
As of Thursday, the 12-mile stretch of the road from Fulton Industrial Boulevard to Interstate 85 was renamed Tuskegee Airmen Parkway.
The Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black pilot squadron in World War II, played a crucial role in integrating the Unites States Armed Forces. Flying thousands of missions across Europe and North Africa, the squadron was famous for having a perfect record of escorting American bomber planes.
The much traveled parkway, which stretches from south Atlanta to East Point, College Park, and toward Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will serve as a constant reminder of the bravery, skill, and sacrifice of the Tuskegee Airmen, said State Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta), who authored the bill.
"They were representing African Americans, and some of the racism that they went through you wouldn't believe," said Holmes. He has worked on other legislation to honor the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen, but felt the "need to do something permanent."
On Thursday, in a ceremony at the Georgia International Convention Center, Holmes revealed the new Tuskegee Airmen Parkway sign markers, which will be posted one mile apart. The ceremony was attended by more than a dozen original Tuskegee Airmen, Mayor Jack Longino of College Park, Lt. Gen. Russell C. Davis, national president of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., and the family of Lt. Col. Charles Dryden, an Atlanta native and an original Tuskegee Airmen. He died in June.
Val Archer, who joined the Tuskegee Airmen in 1945 and went on to participate in the integration of the Air Force for more than 20 years, said the program was "awesome." An estimated 1,000 people attended the event.
"Part of our history is being acknowledged a little after the fact, but this doesn't take anything from how great the program was," said Archer. "It was very gratifying to have that kind of acknowledgment from the legislative branch. More people will recognize the name of that freeway as a reminder of the Tuskegee Airmen, and if they don't know who we are, maybe they will try to find out."
"I think it's been a long time coming, to recognize those great African Americans who served so honorably in World War II," said Longino. "For so many years, we didn't recognize them because, maybe, we didn't want to.
"I think it's good for that area and fits that area," Longino added. "Because of the airport, millions of people will see it and recognize the great things the Tuskegee Airmen have done and they will understand it."
-- Staff writer Daniel Silliman contributed to this article.