Theodore Lumpkin Jr. one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, passed away from COVID-19 at the age of 100. He was only days away from his 101st birthday on Dec. 30, 2020.
Lumpkin, a Los Angeles native, died on Dec. 26, 2020, according to a statement from Los Angeles City College, which he attended from 1938 to 1940. His death was announced on Jan. 9, 2021 by his son, Theodore Lumpkin III, and confirmed by the Los Angeles Times.
One of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black pilots in the segregated U.S. military and among the most respected fighter pilots of World War II, Lumpkin was drafted in 1942 when he was a 21-year-old UCLA student. He was eventually assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, in Tuskegee, AL, as a 2nd lieutenant with the U.S. Army Air Force.
As his poor eyesight prevented Lumpkin from becoming a pilot, he served as an intelligence officer who briefed pilots before and after missions. During his overseas combat tour in Italy in 1944, his 332nd Fighter Group supported B-17 and B-24 bomber squadrons.
In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Lumpkin was also one of the surviving airmen invited to attend Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration in 2009.
With Lumpkin’s death, there are only eight original Tuskegee combat pilots and several support personnel still alive, according to Rick Sinkfield of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. All are in their 90s or older.
Lumpkin is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, several grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Sources: AP.com, BET.com, cafriseabove.org, The Guardian.com, Los Angeles Times