Decorated Tuskegee Airman Brigadier Gen. Charles McGee has died. He was 102.
McGee died peacefully in his sleep Sunday morning, a family spokesperson said.
“He had his right hand over his heart and was smiling serenely,” his youngest daughter Yvonne McGee said in a family statement.
“He was a wonderful human being……I feel proud and privileged to be called his son," McGee's son, Ron McGee, said.
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McGee, a longtime resident of Bethesda, Maryland, flew 409 combat missions in conflicts from World War II to Vietnam. His plane was hit by enemy fire twice — during the Korean conflict and again years later near Laos — both times on his right wing.
He was called to service in 1942 at the age of 23 and became one of the first black military aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
"I just fell in love with flying," McGee said in an interview with News4 in 2020.
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In 2020, McGee flipped the coin at the start of the Super Bowl, received a promotion to Brigadier General from former President Donald Trump Jr. and got a standing ovation from a divided Congress during the State of the Union address.
"Brigadier General, I sometimes look back, it's certainly an honor to receive it now. Would have loved to have served the country in that capacity," McGee said.
Later that year, on the eve of his 101st birthday, a parade of people came out to his Bethesda home for a fitting tribute, including a military flyover — a nod to his fighter pilot days.
"I'm almost speechless," he said. "It's an honor and another of life's blessings."
McGee battled racism and segregation during his military career that spanned three decades. His family and friends say he persevered and stayed focus on his mission.
He spent his 100th birthday in 2019 co-piloting a Cirrus Vision jet, thanks to private supporters and the U.S. Air Force.
"What a thrill where technology has taken us," McGee said.
In recent years, he took part in land-based missions with other Tuskegee Airmen aimed at imparting the importance of education to young people through scholarships, educational assistance and good first-hand advice.
"Get an education, because you can’t take advantage of opportunity if you're not at least initially prepared,” he told News4 in 2011 when he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
McGee's mantra, the Four P’s, “Perceive, Prepare, Perform, and Persevere” became a staple among the many lives he touched, his family said.
McGee is survived by his three children and several grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.