Smithfield, Va. – Corporal William R. White, a documented original Tuskegee Airmen, passed away Friday evening at his home surrounded by family.
Mr. White has been a Hampton Roads native his entire life after being born in Isle of Wight County on November 13, 1926.
In 1945, White attended “boot camp” training school in Ft. Devens where he was known as Private White. While there, he interacted with German and Japanese prisoners of war. The Germans were cooks while the Japanese were ground keepers.
After completing his schooling at Ft. Devens, White was drafted into the Army and reassigned to complete Supply training in Wichita Falls, Texas at Sheppard Air Force Base. He was then permanently assigned to Supply Warehouse Operations for the 477th Bombardment Group. There he observed some racial tension that spilled over from the Godman Field, KY period.
A modest man, he never spoke publicly about his Tuskegee Airmen service as he did not think he did anything special.
White became Corporal before being honorably discharged in December 1946. Afterwards, he worked in Smithfield in the private sector for many years before returning to his roots when he went back to work for Norfolk’s Naval Supply Center from 1973-1993.
He received a Good Conduct Medal and a congratulatory letter from President Harry S. Truman after being discharged from the military. Later, he was awarded a 20 year Civil Service retirement pin and receipt of a replica Congressional Gold Medal in May 2013 (it was originally presented to the Tuskegee Airmen as a unit by President George W. Bush in March 2007).
He is survived by his wife (Elsie), three children (six in total, three of which are deceased), a host of family and friends, and the church he attended for over 50 years Little Mount Zion Baptist Church in Smithfield.