Black History Month: Westchester man helped train some of the fiercest WWII pilots
News 12 is celebrating Black History Month by featuring a Westchester man who helped integrate African Americans into the aviation field.
A photo of Archie Smith is hanging in the Westchester County Airport was taken in 1954 - the same year the Supreme Court ordered schools in the south be desegregated.
While much farther north in the Hudson Valley, Archie Smith trained white men to fly.
Colin Smith, Archie's grandson and a Westchester County legislator, has been on a mission to uncover Archie's career in the sky to find out how a son of a former slave with a 9th grade education could leave Texas and the Jim Crow South to found a flight school called Warhawk Aviation Club at the county airport.
Newspaper clippings and black and white photos chart Archie Smith's rise - and perhaps no one appreciates this collection more than Colin's father, David Smith.
David Smith was taken under his father's wing - learning to navigate the clouds by the time he was 14 years old. But before Archie Smith landed in Westchester, he heard the call to war.
The man who learned to soar to new heights on Long Island put his gift of aviation to work during World War II. The famous Tuskegee airmen, the first Black pilots in the U.S. military played a pivotal role towards ending segregation in the armed forces.
Archie Smith trained about 200 of them.
"They were trailblazers, they were pioneers, people like my grandfather were people who showed that even under some of the horrific circumstances that progress can and will be made," says Colin Smith.