“That’s when they really discovered that this was a Black base and that the Red Tails were flown by Black pilots,” he recounted in an oral history recorded in 2011 for the Veterans History Project. After that, bomber crews often requested the Red Tails as escorts, he said.
Mr. Lumpkin, one of the oldest surviving Tuskegee Airmen, died on Dec. 26 at a hospital in Los Angeles, just a few days before his 101st birthday.
Another alma mater, Los Angeles City College, said in an announcement that the cause was complications of Covid-19.
Theodore George Lumpkin Jr. was born on Dec. 30, 1919, in Los Angeles, the oldest of six children of Theodore and Winnie Mae (Long) Lumpkin. While attending Jefferson High School, he worked part time at the shoe store where his father had long been employed. An early understanding of racism, he said, came when he realized that his father would never be allowed to do more than operate the elevator or do janitorial chores because of his race; the more coveted position of shoe salesman was barred to him.
After graduating from high school Mr. Lumpkin earned an associate degree in mathematics at Los Angeles City College in 1940. He was studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, when he was drafted into the Army in 1942.