A memorial service has been scheduled for a Tuskegee Airman who was a longtime Kansas resident, Major George Boyd.

Boyd was a 28-year combat veteran in the U.S. Air Force and remained active as a leader in the Civil Air Patrol and public speaker. He was the recipient of two Congressional Gold Medals.

The memorial service will be 10 a.m. Saturday, July 28, at the chapel at McConnell Air Force Base, 53150 Kansas St., Suite 122, Wichita.

Due to visitor restrictions at the base, attendees should contact Jackson Mortuary for details, 316-262-5431. 

Boyd died June 21, two days short of his 92nd birthday.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of African Americans trained to pilot bombers and fighters in the U.S. military during World War II. The term also includes the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel.

Boyd actually did not complete pilot training in the Tuskegee program, but did go in the air during WWII as a radar observer, he said in an interview with the Journal Times of Racine, Wisconsin.

He was an active member of Kansas City’s Heart of America Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., the organization that preserves the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.

He remained in the military as the Army Air Corps transitioned into becoming the Air Force, and served in the Korean War in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He was an all-weather jet fighter radar intercept officer, squadron commander and combat management engineer. He retired as a major in 1970 or 1971.

Boyd then renewed his connections with the Civil Air Patrol, achieving the rank of colonel in the organization (not connected to his Air Force rank) and was commander and director of the Kansas Wing and Department of the CAP.

He’d been involved in the CAP in the early 1940s, prior to joining the military. The CAP functioned during WWII as a safeguard for the home front. Civilian pilots flew patrols against German U-boats and saboteurs, and did disaster relief and search-and-rescue missions, among other duties the military couldn’t perform due to the war. The CAP also trained many pilots who then joined the military.

Boyd traveled widely to speak to school groups and community organizations about the significance of the Tuskegee Airmen and the challenges they faced, as well as obstacles he overcame.

He experienced segregation. He was refused service at restaurants and witnessed police brutality in the streets outside the gates of his duty station, he said in an interview for the Air Force’s official web site.

“Most of the time you stayed in the culture that you knew because it was safe,” Boyd said. “It was easiest to operate within those limitations. You lived in a cultural fear. You were afraid of doing something that would get you harmed even though you aren’t breaking the law.” 

Among the problems he and many other service members faced was not being promoted because they were African-American, he said.

“They gave you a job, and you’d do the job, but instead of giving you the rating they gave everybody else, they’d give you just a (lower) rating,” Boyd said. “Well you’re not going to get promoted if they do that to you, especially if they have everybody else walking on water.” 

This issue made national headlines in recent weeks as 98-year-old John Edward James Jr. of Pennsylvania was commissioned as a U.S. Army officer 75 years after being discriminated against in officer training school.

Boyd was among the surviving Tuskegee Airmen awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, and among the surviving WWII Civil Air Patrol members awarded the medal in 2014.

Boyd settled in Wichita after retiring from the Air Force. For many years, he was a regular sight at the city’s trendiest bars and restaurants. He loved jazz and occasionally played drums.

When Wichita broadcaster Larry Hatteberg met with Boyd for a “Hatteberg’s People” segment for KAKE TV in 2002, Boyd showed off his 1988 Buick Riviera, which had nearly 400,000 miles on its odometer.

The car lasted until about 2014, when another driver hit and totaled it, said former Kansas state Sen. U.L “Rip” Gooch, a friend of Boyd’s and the man who sold the car to him. Boyd survived the crash with minor injuries.

Boyd’s health started a general decline in 2016, Gooch said.

He is survived by wife Mattie S. Boyd; daughter Gertrude Burns; grandchildren Brian, Larnie, and Alitta Boyd; nephew Joseph Mitchell; sister-in-law Annette Durham; and other family and friends.

He will be entombed at Arlington National Cemetery.

Another Wichita Tuskegee Airman, Dr. Donald Jackson, died in February and was also placed in Arlington.

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