Pilot Bill Wilkerson of Pleasant Garden, North Carolina was among the first black pilots in the country. Wilkerson flew 15 years for Piedmont Airlines, which became a part of US Airways in 1989. In 1980, he became the second black person to earn the rank of captain with the company. The retired pilot still wears his captains’ uniform while he gives tours at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.
Wilkerson grew up in the projects of Knoxville, Tennessee with his two other siblings and his single mother, who worked as a domestic. She gave her kids the books she received from her clients.
Wilkerson’s mother purchased “The Library of Universal Knowledge” for her children and young Bill read the chapter called “How to Fly.” The boy ‘flew around the world’ through the articles inside National Geographic and Reader’s Digest. He was so intrigued, he engulfed himself in model airplanes and begged his mother for flying lessons. She initially refused, so Wilkerson and his friend paid $5 for a flying lesson at the Knoxville airport. His mother eventually gave in, and by the time he was 16 years old, Wilkerson was in flight school. Five years later, he obtained his pilot’s license.
Wilkerson enlisted in the Air Force and served as a mechanic until 1971. Three years later he got the job at Piedmont. While Piedmont was jokingly called the “puddle jumper” airline, Wilkerson was proud to work as one of the first and few black pilots in the industry. He gained much attention as one of the few black men in uniform.
Wilkerson logged more than 17,000 hours as a pilot for Piedmont. He was finally able to take his family to the places he’d only seen in the National Geographic magazine as a child. In 2011, he was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.
Bill Wilkerson continues to give tours at the North Carolina Transportation museum and work with the Federal Aviation Administration on pilot safety issues.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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