Memorial held for local Tuskeegee Airman Grant Williams

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-27 18:21:38-04

Hampton Roads said goodbye Friday to a man who helped pave the way for civil rights in the military.

Flags across the Commonwealth were at half-staff in honor of retired Chief Master Sergeant Dr. Grant Williams, a local Tuskeegee Airman who died last weekend.

He loved his country and he loved educating young people about the history of the Tuskeegee Airmen.

Documented original Tuskeegee Airmen and other members of the Tidewater Chapter saluted the family of Dr. Williams as they made their way into the Hampton University Memorial Chapel to pay their respects and bid their final farewells.

At the age of 94, Williams was the oldest documented original Tuskeegee Airman in his chapter.

“Everybody knew the Christian guy that he is and was, where is heart was, so it was a pleasure to know him,” said retired Lt. Col TJ Spann.

Spann is the past president of the Tidewater Chapter.

He says one thing that was dear to Williams’ heart was educating young people about the Tuskeegee Airmen.

“All the way up until he couldn't travel anymore, he enjoyed it. I can say that it's probably among the things that helped him live a lot longer, because he looked forward to speaking to the young people around the nation,” Spann says.

NewsChannel 3’s Laila Muhammad sat down will Williams in January 2012 as the movie “Red Tails” brought the triumphs and trials of the first African American fighter pilots to the big screen.

Williams was called to duty in 1942 and took part in the “Tuskeegee Experience” in Alabama.

He served with the Tuskeegee Airmen in World War II where he was an administrative clerk.

“Our men shot down over 400 enemy aircraft, and they came home with numerous medals,” Williams said.

He also proudly served in Vietnam.

Williams received many awards, including the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal, each with one oak leaf cluster.

He retired at Langley Air Force Base in 1975 and lived in Hampton.