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Richard D. Macon

Richard D. Macon


Richard D. Macon was born in Birmingham, Alabama on August 21, 1921. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Miles College.

Always a formidable competitor, on a bet, pursued and passed all entrance exams and requirements for the Army Air Corps. He trained at Tuskegee and completed Pilot Training School as a second lieutenant. He received further training at Selfridge Field in Michigan and from there went on to Walterboro Airfield in South Carolina.

During World War II, he proudly flew missions with the legendary 332 Fighter Group "The Red Tails" in Italy, Romania and the South of France. He had 16 successful missions to his credit. It was there, on August 12, 1944, his plane was shot down. He was a prisoner of war for nine months until April 29, 1945, when he was freed by the Army of George Patton. He was honorably discharged in December 1945, receiving the Purple Heart for his service.

Macon went on to earn flight instructor status and organized a flying school in Birmingham, Alabama. He continued his studies and earned a master's degree in mathematics from Indiana University. Returning to his alma mater, Miles College, he became an associate professor of mathematics.

In 1955, he accepted a teaching assignment in the Detroit Public Schools and became the first African-American to teach math in a Detroit High School. Before retiring on January 1, 1987, after 31 years in Detroit education, he served as department head, high school principal, pioneer computer programmer for assisting in mathematics instruction, monitor for special projects, and personnel administrator.

Macon was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, and was one of the founders of National Tuskegee Airmen Inc. He held memberships in many social and professional groups, but none were dearer to his heart than his beloved Tuskegee Airmen. He traveled the country speaking to young and old telling the story of this dynamic group of unsung heroes. Macon was enshrined in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on April 19, 2008.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program