HOUSTON – (Feb. 25, 2014) – As Black History Month comes to a close, Rice University is highlighting the late alumnus Noel Parrish, who is credited with making it possible for blacks to serve as aviators in the U.S. armed forces when he was a colonel.
Rice News traveled to Tuskegee, Ala., to interview surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen and representatives of Moton Field, where the Airmen’s World War II base was located.
Nearly a dozen of the original Tuskegee Airmen returned to the base Feb. 15 to dedicate the newly renovated national historic site, greet surviving comrades in arms and reflect on those who supported their double victory: over the enemy in World War II and over the prejudice they fought in the country they swore to defend.
Parrish was one of the people they acknowledged. Two days before Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 5, 1941, Parrish became the director of training at the Tuskegee Army Flying School. A year later, in December 1942, he was promoted to base commander.
Parrish broke down racial barriers and succeeded when many thought the project would never get off the ground. “The Tuskegee experiment was an experiment that was meant to fail,” said retired Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson, national president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
After World War II, Parrish continued to advance both in the U.S. military and academically, eventually earning the rank of brigadier general. He died in 1987.
For more information or to interview Rice Centennial Historian Melissa Kean, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-348-6327.
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