BY SHERI TRUSTY
A national and local hero, the late Lt. Colonel Harold Brown, of Port Clinton, was posthumously inducted into the 2023 Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 12 at the Ohio Statehouse. His wife, Marsha Bordner, representing her husband, accepted the honor.
Brown was recognized for his service as a Tuskegee Airman, who famously served as bomber escorts during World War II. The fabled war heroes were the first African American military pilots. Their accomplishments led to the integration of the U.S. military in 1948.
The Tuskegee Airmen pushed through racial barriers without fists or aggression. They were unintentional Civil Rights warriors who were more concerned with protecting the pilots they escorted than with bringing attention to themselves. Nevertheless, their presence in the military created the first glimmer of the Civil Rights fight as they utilized the weapons of skill, intelligence and integrity.
In their effort to become military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen fought deeply ingrained prejudice, open aggression and irrational evolutionary beliefs. In her acceptance speech at the Statehouse, Bordner quoted from a 1925 Army War College report.
“The report concluded that the American Negro, on the evolutionary scale, ‘has not progressed as far as the other subspecies of the human family … His mental inferiority and inherent weaknesses of character are factors that must be considered with great care in the preparation of any plan for his employment in war,’” Bordner read.
Had that racially spurred ideology continued to be upheld, the Tuskegee Airmen, who were integral to the safety of American bombers, would not have existed, and the Civil Rights movement in America would have lacked that powerful, early foundation.
“I believe it was the first significant act of desegregation in our country,” Bordner said of the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen.