Mon - Sat: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sun: 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Mon - Thurs: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Fri - Sat: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sun: 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
In celebration of Black History Month, the City of Portage is hosting a special event, celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and featuring Tuskegee Airman, United States Air Force Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson. The public is invited to come and listen to Col. Jefferson speak of his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman, 18 long range missions with the "Red Tail" fighter group, his time as a WWII prisoner of war, and as a science teacher with the Detroit School system! The event will be in a question and answer format, moderated by Portage City Manager, Larry Shaffer. Mattawan's Concert Choir will perform several spirituals as well as the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Air Zoo's Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight exhibit will be open to attendees, which includes artifacts from the Tuskegee Airmen. Refreshments will be served. All are welcome to attend and no RSVP is required.
About the speaker:
Lt. Col. Alexander "Jeff" Jefferson was born on November 15, 1921 in Detroit, Michigan. He was an instructor pilot with Tuskegee Airmen and spent over 30 years as a science teacher with the Detroit School System. Alex graduated in 1942 from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biology. He went on to earn a Masters Degree in education from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
In July, 1944, Alex received his pilot's wings at the Tuskegee Army Airfield followed by three months of combat training at Selfridge Field, Michigan. He was assigned to the 332nd P-51 "Red Tail" fighter group in Ramiltelli, Italy. Alex flew 18 long range missions escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers.
On August 12, 1944, three days prior to the invasion of Southern France, Alex was shot down by ground fire while strafing radar in the harbor of Toulon. He was captured by German troops and interned for nine months as a prisoner of war, spending the first six months in Stalag Luft III, just east of Berlin. On January 29, 1945, when the Russians started their offensive, the prisoners were relocated by 40 & 8 rail cars to Stalag VIIA near Mooseburg, Germany. On April 29, 1945 the camp was liberated by Patton's Third Army. Upon release, Alex traveled down to Dachau, Germany to witness the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Alex returned to the United States in 1945 and served as an instrument instructor at Tuskegee Army airfield until its deactivation in 1946. Alex was discharged from active duty in 1947. He retired from the Air Force reserves as a Lt. Colonel in 1969.
Alex earned numerous awards and citations during his tour of duty. Of these include the Air Medal, Air Force Achievement medal, Prisoner of War medal, and the Air Force Presidential unit citation.
Alexander Jefferson was enshrined to the Air Zoo's Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame (MAHOF) on October 14, 1995 for his many years serving his country in one the world's finest combat units-The Tuskegee "Red Tails"-along with his 30 years of dedicated to service to the Michigan school system.