Little Known Black History Fact: Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson

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  • On March 13th, the U.S. Postal Service will commemorate a Black aviation leader. His name is Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson Sr., and he is the first Tuskegee Airman to be featured on a U.S. postage stamp.

    Chief Anderson is viewed as “the father of black aviation” for his role as the trainer of the Tuskegee Airmen. When the Chief received his pilot’s license in 1932, he was the only black flight instructor in America. It was Chief Anderson at the controls when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took a 40-minute flight which led to the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen program.

    Charles Alfred Anderson was born on February 9, 1907 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

    He always had the desire to fly, but ran into a hurdle when no one would teach a young Black man. He was forced instead to enroll in ground training, and learned flight mechanics. Every chance he had the opportunity to observe airplanes, he did so, which included hanging out with pilots at the airports to learn more about aviation. Now all he needed was his own plane.

    Anderson purchased his first plane, a Velie Monocoupe, with which he taught himself how to fly. With the money he earned to rent his plane to fellow pilots, he was able to pay for his pilot’s license in 1929. In 1932, he received his air transport license with the help of a German pilot named Ernest Buehl.

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