Tuskegee Airmen Chapter Proposes Memorial in Virginia

Tuskegee Airmen Homer Hogues and Calvin Spann receive the Omar N. Bradley "Spirit of Independence Award" on behalf of all of the Tuskegee Airmen Dec. 27, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joseph A. Pagán Jr.)
Tuskegee Airmen Homer Hogues and Calvin Spann receive the Omar N. Bradley "Spirit of Independence Award" on behalf of all of the Tuskegee Airmen Dec. 27, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joseph A. Pagán Jr.)

HAMPTON -- Hampton could one day be home to a monument to the all-black squadron that helped integrate the Army Air Forces during World War II.

The Tidewater Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. pitched the Hampton City Council a concept for a memorial at Air Power Park on Mercury Boulevard -- a facility that council members said has lost its luster.

The display would include three replica fighters suspended above a walkway and arranged in formation.

Along the walkway would be a wall with scenes from the war that could include interactive displays with exhibit or calendar information. A row of red fighter plane tail fins would list the names of all the men who were part of the original squadron, along with photos of that first group.

T.J. Spann, president of the Tidewater chapter, said the local ties to the pioneering airmen's group are little-known, and a memorial would help tell the story.

"The reason this is really important to us is we've realized that we have many original documented Tuskegee Airmen in this area, but many outside of the area and chapter don't realize it," Spann said.

The memorial was designed to fit in the western section of Air Power Park.

"We prefer this location over any other location. We looked at Fort Monroe and Langley Air Force Base," Spann said. "One is way out of the way and the other has limited access."

Tyrone Davis, who heads the chapter's memorial committee, said the group needs to raise about $2 million to get the project off the ground and is currently seeking donations.

The chapter is also looking at fundraising events such as 5k runs and bike races and has been in discussions with groups affiliated with the military, universities and large aerospace companies such as Lockheed Martin.

City Council members seemed enthusiastic about the possibility of giving Air Power Park a boost.

"It seems to me that this project has potential on a lot of fronts. One of them is to rejuvenate Air Power Park, which over time has maybe gotten tired and not had as much excitement as it once did," said Vice Mayor Linda Curtis.

If some council members had their way, the proposal would lead to an overhaul of Air Power Park.

"If we're going to put a first-class-type display here, are we going to revisit our plan for this area?" Councilwoman Chris Snead asked. She called the memorial proposal an "opportunity to truly rejuvenate and look at what Air Power Park is" and said the city should look at programming, displays and the old building on the site.

Mayor George Wallace said a new memorial would bundle nicely with the Virginia Air and Space Center downtown as another way to draw tourists.

Council members asked about the cost of moving the aircraft already there to make space for the new memorial. City Manager Mary Bunting said preliminary estimates for moving, remounting and repainting the four planes from the western end of the park were between $100,000 and $200,000.

The matter is expected to come up for formal consideration at a City Council meeting later this year.

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