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Free movie will honor Tuskegee Airman

JONESBORO — Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said the life of Tuskegee Airman Brew Graham will be honored Friday night with the free airing of “Red Tails,” complete with popcorn.

Graham of Riverdale died Sept. 26 at 98. He was believed to have been the oldest Tuskegee Airman at the time of his death.

Turner said work began immediately after Graham’s death to get the rights to air the movie featuring the history-making Airmen.

The movie will be shown at 8 p.m. at Clayton County International Park on Ga. Highway 138 in Jonesboro. The airing will be preceded by a 7:30 p.m. reception.

Graham was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving with the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron. Members of the 99th trained at a segregated base in Tuskegee, Ala., and became known as Tuskegee Airmen. He later served with the 332nd Fighter Group, referred to as the Red Tails because of the color of their planes.

The Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance staff, instructors and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. Graham worked as an airplane mechanic.

The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly-respected fighter groups of WW II. The Airmen’s achievements, together with the more than 10,000 black men and women in military and civilian groups who supported them, paved the way for integration of the U.S. military, according to historians.

Graham didn’t want to serve because he was a conscientious objector and because the military was segregated. However, Graham family spokeswoman Ann Almond said the Airmen overcame those obstacles to serve with pride.

“During the time when race relations were embarrassing, these Airmen stepped up and served their country with honor and accomplished a record that any military units would be envious of,” she said. “The Tuskegee Airmen were credited by higher commands with the following accomplishments: 15,533 combat stories, 1,578 missions, 112 German aircraft destroyed in the air and another 150 on the ground.”

Graham was recognized with a proclamation by Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon and members of council March 26, 2012.